Reducing your risk of heart disease
This section looks at how you can reduce the risk of heart disease. This information is helpful to everyone:
- If you have heart disease already and don't want it to get worse - secondary prevention.
- If you are trying to avoid getting it - primary prevention.
Coronary heart disease risk factors
The most common form of heart disease is known as coronary heart disease.
There are certain things that increase your risk of developing heart disease. These are called risk factors. Heart disease and stroke are sometimes put together using the term 'cardiovascular disease' (CVD). As the risk factors for heart disease and stroke are the same they are referred to as cardiovascular risk factors.
Some of these cardiovascular risk factors you cannot alter. These include:
- Family history of heart disease and / or stroke (i.e. father or brother who developed heart disease or a stroke before they were 55, or a mother or sister before they were 65)
- Age: the risk of heart disease increases with age
- Ethnic origin: people with an Afro Caribbean or South East Asian ethnic background have an increased risk of heart disease
- Sex: men have an increased risk of heart disease
For some things you will need the help of doctors and nurses to identify any particular problems you may have as well as making sure these things are controlled on an ongoing basis. In particular:
Other cardiovascular risk factors are to do with the way you lead your life.Making changes to your lifestyle can improve your overall health and reduce your risk of heart disease. These 'lifestyle risk factors' include:
- What and how much you eat
- Your weight
- How active you are
- How much alcohol you drink
- How much salt there is in your diet
- Using recreational drugs
Stress is not considered a risk factor. However, when it begins to affect your health stress can become a trigger for unhelpful behaviour which can increase your risk of heart disease (e.g. smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating poorly and not getting enough physical activity). To make the necessary lifestyle changes that may reduce your risk of heart disease it is important to be well motivated and to learn to reduce, and control, the amount of stress in your life and to recognise if you are down or possibly depressed.
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