When it comes to heart disease, it’s hard not to automatically think about the three main risk factors that cause it – high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking – since these are factors are impact a surprising number of people. In fact, nearly 50 percent of American adults have at least one of those three risk factors.
But while those are the main risk factors for heart disease, they aren’t the only risk factors. Many risk factors for various types of heart disease are less common and lesser-known.
Just because they’re less familiar, though, doesn’t mean they’re any less important or serious. Read on to as Pavani Kolakalapudi, MD, non-invasive cardiologist with The Heart Center of NGMC, shares key risk factors for heart disease you shouldn’t overlook or ignore.
7 Lesser-Known Risk Factors for Heart Disease
- Being overweight or obese. Carrying excess weight is a risk factor for both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, so it makes sense that it increases your risk for heart disease, too. Your cardiologist can help you develop a healthy eating plan and suggest exercises that meet your unique needs long term.
- Eating an unhealthy diet. If you’re eating a diet high in processed and fast foods, you aren’t doing your heart any favors. Limit your intake of saturated fat and excess sodium—and fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Not only do nutritious foods help lower your risk for heart disease, key vitamins and nutrients help boost heart health and function.
- Being overly stressed. Stress is a common and downplayed risk factor for many health conditions. When your body is overly stressed or stressed for prolonged periods, it’s in constant fight-or-flight mode, putting your entire cardiovascular system in overdrive. Finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as regular exercise and meditation, are crucial.
- Having an autoimmune disease. Any condition that causes inflammation in the body can potentially cause inflammation in the heart. If you have a condition like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important to work with your cardiologist to manage these underlying conditions and prevent long-term heart issues.
- Having chronic kidney disease. This condition increases the amount of calcium in your blood, which can cause plaque to form in your arteries. Protect your kidneys and your heart by controlling your blood pressure and your blood sugar.
- Being lonely. Research has shown that having few friends or unhappy relationships increases your risk of heart disease as much as exposure to secondhand smoke does. Taking the time to reconnect with friends and family will not only support your heart health, but it’s also essential for your mental and emotional well-being.
- Having gum disease. When you have periodontal disease, bacteria from the mouth can get into the blood and cause inflammation in the arteries. Ultimately, this can lead to plaque build-up and increase your risk of heart disease. Taking good care of your teeth can help lower your risk of both gum disease and heart disease.
Keeping your heart at its healthiest.
In addition to these factors, your family medical history, the stage of life you’re in and your overall health and wellness can all impact your heart health. That’s why it’s essential to work with a cardiologist that specializes in the prevention of heart disease and the early detection of conditions in their most-treatable stage.