Mild Risk for Heart Attack
What constitutes a mild risk for having a heart attack – that gray area that perhaps puts you above the “low risk” category? There are several factors that when combined, can elevate the risk enough to warrant increased monitoring or lifestyle changes. Studies have also revealed that most patients with at least one major risk factor eventually develop coronary artery disease (CAD).
While smoking, alcohol abuse, poor diet, obesity, diabetes, family history and continuous high cholesterol and high blood pressure can elevate you to a higher risk status, there are more subtle areas that warrant attention. So what can put you at a mild risk? Here are a few likely scenarios:
- Being a man over 40 or a post-menopausal woman. Men have a greater risk to develop CAD after age 40. In women, estrogen appears to protect women by raising HDL cholesterol and lowering LDLs. But after menopause, women’s risk increases two- or three-fold.
- Borderline high cholesterol for extended time periods (200-239 mg/dL), including low HDLs and high LDLs
- Borderline high blood pressure (140/90 mm/Hg and above), and possibly pre-hypertensive levels for extended time periods (above 120/80mm/Hg) for patients with other conditions.
- Excess weight. Even slight increases in waist size can increase risk.
- Inadequate exercise. Some exercise is better than none, but a sedentary existence can greatly increase CAD risk.
- Diet with higher amounts of salt and saturated fat. Not eating enough fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and lean meats and poultry can result in higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Too much salt can raise blood pressure.
- Untreated stress, anger and depression. These psychological conditions can increase risk.
Factors contributing to your individual risk of heart attack that cannot be helped include increasing age, a family history of heart disease and race – African Americans often have higher blood pressure than Caucasians. What you can do to decrease risk includes reducing high blood pressure to at least lower than 140/90 mm/Hg (120/80 and less is an ideal target), lowering cholesterol to below 200mg/dL (HDL should be greater than 40mg/dL), and having regular checkups to detect and treat possible diabetes.
To further reduce risk, there are several lifestyle changes that you can make part of your everyday life:
- Lose weight and keep it off.
- Exercise can decrease cholesterol and blood pressure levels, control weight and help prevent developing diabetes.
- Limit alcohol consumption. While excessive drinking can raise blood pressure and increase risk of heart disease and stroke, studies have shown that drinking in moderation – one or two drinks a day – can actually help increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
- A healthful diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and poultry; and is low in saturated fats, trans fat and salt.
- Stop smoking. Tobacco is a leading cause of heart disease that can greatly increase risk.
MDCA cardiologists are specialists in assessing a patient’s risk of developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack, and can suggest a program of lifestyle changes and/or medication therapy to ensure good heart health.