Cardiovascular and Heart Disease are known to run in families. Identifying the risk factors and adopting a healthy lifestyle for you and your family is the key to reducing the risk of catastrophic health issues for you and your loved ones.
What are cardiovascular disease risk factors?
Habits, behaviors, circumstances, or conditions that increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease are known as risk factors.
Cardiovascular disease and heart disease are not the same.
Cardiovascular disease and “heart disease” are terms often used interchangeably. However, in medical terms, they are not the same thing. Heart disease is a general term for conditions affecting the structure of the heart and the way it functions. All heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases. Not all cardiovascular diseases are heart diseases. An example is a stroke, which affects blood vessels in the brain, but not the heart itself.
Some common conditions that fall under cardiovascular disease
- Coronary heart disease
- Transient ischemic attack
- Peripheral artery disease
Cardiovascular disease usually begins with atherosclerosis, also known as “hardening of the arteries.” Atherosclerosis occurs when a fatty substance called LDL cholesterol builds up along the wall of the arteries, reducing blood flow throughout the body. Obstructed blood flow restricts the delivery of oxygen and vital nutrients to the heart and other vital organs.
There are several types of cardiovascular disease, including:
- Coronary artery disease can lead to a heart attack due to issues with the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the heart.
- Peripheral artery disease affects the blood supply to the arms and legs.
- Cerebrovascular disease affects the blood supply to the brain, which causes a stroke or transient ischemic attack.
- Congenital heart disease is the term for a range of congenital disabilities that affect the normal development and functioning of the heart.
- Rheumatic heart disease, which is damage to the heart muscle and valves caused by rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can occur following infection by a type of bacteria called streptococcus.
What are the risk factors for cardiovascular disease?
Cardiovascular risk factors can be categorized as modifiable and non-modifiable.
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors include:
- Genetics (Family History)
Modifiable risk factors are those that can be reduced and/or controlled with behavior. These include:
Heart Disease and the Family
As mentioned earlier, heart disease includes conditions affecting the structure of the heart and the way it functions. These conditions can include:
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes and prediabetes
- Sedentary lifestyle or lack of physical exercise
- Alcoholism or excessive use of alcohol
- Family history of heart attack or heart disease
Keep a family health history record to identify risk factors for heart disease.
Because genetics and lifestyle play a role in cardiovascular and heart disease, it is crucial to know your family’s health history to identify genetic risk factors.
Tips on collecting your family health history:
- Include your parents, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.
- Make sure you include both your mother’s and father’s sides of the family.
- Note which relatives have had heart disease, related conditions, or procedures.
- List the age and cause of death for relatives who have died.
- Share your family health history with your doctor and family members.
- Regularly update your family health history and alert your doctor to any new diagnosis, condition, or procedure.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your family health history of heart disease. If you need help getting started, you can use the My Family Health Portrait tool to collect and share your family health history information.
Healthy Hearts. Healthy Families.
Families with a known history of cardiovascular and heart disease can lower their chances of developing heart disease by making specific lifestyle modifications.
- Increase your activity level. Exercise 30 – 60 minutes, five days a week.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet.
- Stop smoking (or never start smoking).
- Control blood pressure (less than 120/80).
- Control cholesterol levels.
- Control blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.
Sources for more information:
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