Heart Disease: Seven Keys to Dropping Your Risk

It's the leading cause of death in the US

HEART DISEASE is the leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of 665,000 Americans annually. Today, I want to look at ways we can bend the curve to a lower number.

The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease. It can strike you or me, as it is indiscriminate when it comes to sex, race, or ethnicity. Coronary artery disease accounts for just over half of all heart-related deaths in the USA.

Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaques in the blood vessels of the heart. These plaques are composed of calcium, cholesterol, fat, and other waste products. If one of these blood vessels becomes clogged by a growing plaque (or one that has broken loose), the blood supply to a portion of the heart can stop.

Unfortunately, about half of those who have a heart attack or die suddenly from coronary artery disease never experience a significant symptom. I want to explore some of the main factors for coronary heart disease. What can I do to lower my risk of having a heart attack?

The good news? Our lifestyle choices often allow us some (but not complete) control over our risk for coronary artery disease. Before we turn to the risk-reducing properties of physical activity, I want to suggest that you try to get an estimate of your risk of cardiovascular disease.

A risk assessment begins by looking at your family history and three measurements: 1) your average blood sugar, 2) your cholesterol levels, and 3) your blood pressure. A valued healthcare provider can help you understand these measurements and how you might improve them.

Risk calculators that incorporate such measurements can help you and your care provider gain insights into your stroke or heart attack risk.

Did you know that lifestyle may drop your cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality by a remarkable 75 percent? A 2018 systematic review included over 200,00 persons from 12 extensive studies. The researchers discovered this:

Those achieving between five and seven heart health metrics had a 72 percent lower risk than those who achieved two or fewer metrics. Achieving as few as three or four metrics led to a near halving of risk compared to lower achievers.

Here are the American Heart Association’s top seven goals for optimizing cardiovascular health:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Be physically active
  • Have a normal blood pressure
  • Have a normal blood glucose level
  • Have a normal total cholesterol level
  • Achieve a normal weight
  • Eat a healthy diet

Physical activity is a fantastic way many of us can reduce the risk of suffering a cardiovascular event. I do a lot of brisk walking. Even if you are generally sedentary, check in with your doctor; you are likely to be able to begin to make healthy changes in your life immediately. The American Heart Association offers some tips for success.


Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

This article lives here: CardiovascularHeart Disease: Seven Keys to Dropping Your Risk
Michael Hunter, MD
Michael Hunter, MD
I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

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