Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the U.S., and around the world. Your risk for heart disease is influenced by factors like age, gender, race, and genetics, as well as certain conditions and behaviors including:
If you smoke, or are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, your risk for heart disease increases. The chemicals in tobacco smoke cause plaque buildup in arteries, increase blood pressure, and increase the risk of blood clots.
Cholesterol is needed to make hormones, vitamin D, and digestive substances in the body. However, cholesterol levels that are out of balance can cause many complications. There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). The higher the LDL level, the greater the risk of heart disease. The higher the HDL level, the lower the risk for heart disease.
High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of blood pushing against artery walls. Over time, high blood pressure weakens arteries and increases the risk of heart disease.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or doesn’t use insulin properly, which causes a high blood sugar level in the body. Over time, high blood sugar increases the risk for plaque buildup in the arteries.
As body weight increases, the heart must work harder to meet the body’s needs. As body mass increases, so does the risk for heart disease.
Understanding Your Risk for Heart Disease
Heart disease is often referred to as a silent killer because the first sign of a problem is often a heart attack. Smoking, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure are the three biggest risk factors for heart disease—and nearly half of all Americans have at least one of them. If you are age 65 or over and have these or other risk factors for heart disease, ask your doctor if a Peripheral Arterial Disease Screening is right for you. During this simple and painless ultrasound screening, your radiologist can help you better understand your risk for heart disease. The Association of Alexandria Radiologists offers PAD screening at Inova Alexandria Hospital, and Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.