Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 300,000 men each year. While heart disease is a serious disease that affects a wide range of men (and women, too), the good news is the large majority of fatal heart disease cases can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes. By better understanding your personal heart attack risk factors, you are taking the first step to obtaining a healthy future – free of cardiovascular disease!
Unfortunately, being male is a heart disease risk factor in and of itself. While heart disease affects an equal amount of women, men tend to have a greater risk of heart attack and typically have attacks at a younger age. Even after menopause, when a woman’s death rate from heart disease increases, the number of fatal heart attacks in women is still less than in men.
Heart disease can affect people of all ages, but
it is most common in older ages. A man’s risk for developing heart disease
begins nearly 10 years before a woman’s. Nearly one in every 100 men develops
signs of heart disease by the age of 45. By age 55, the risk doubles and continues to increase until age 85,
when about 7.4 out of every 100 men have heart disease.
People who have parents or close blood relatives who have been diagnosed with heart disease, especially at a young age, are more likely to develop the disease themselves. Please consult your primary care physician if you have a family history of heart disease, so he or she can better track your heart health and make informed recommendations for heart disease prevention.
In addition to gender, age and family history, your race is another heart disease risk factor you simply can’t control. Compared to Caucasians, the heart disease risk for African American, Mexican American, American Indian, Hawaiian or Asian American may be higher. In fact, about 8 percent of African American men and 6 percent of Mexican American men have coronary heart disease.
Smokers are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than non-smokers. If you are one of the 24.8 million American men who smoke or use tobacco, the best thing you can do for your heart, and your overall health, is to find the resources and support to quit tobacco. Quitting tobacco will reduce your chances of developing heart disease and reduce the chances of someone you love developing heart disease from secondhand smoke.
High LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels and high triglyceride levels may be linked to an increased risk for heart disease. For many men, the risk of high cholesterol starts in their 20s and increases with age. While a family history can affect your cholesterol, other factors may include poor diet, low activity level and high body weight. Men over the age of 20 should get their cholesterol levels tested at least once a year.
High Blood Pressure
Having high blood pressure puts stress on a person’s heart, causing an increased risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and congestive heart failure. A higher percentage of men than women have high blood pressure before the age of 45. Men who have high blood pressure, in addition to being obese, a smoker or diabetic, have a significantly higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Getting regular physical activity is an important part of strengthening your heart and reducing your risk for heart disease in both the immediate and long-term future. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise, five days a week. If your schedule does not allow you to exercise for thirty consecutive minutes, try taking a brisk 10 minute walk, three times a day, five days a week.
People who have excess body fat – especially around the waistline – are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they don’t have any other heart disease risk factors. Approximately 200 million men worldwide are considered overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk for heart disease. In addition to exercising, overweight men should eat a diet low in salt; low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol; and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables.
The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) estimates there are 13 million men over the age of 20 who have diabetes. Adults living with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease or stroke than adults without diabetes. If you have diabetes or are at risk for developing diabetes, treating your diabetes or controlling your risk factors is the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Having one or more heart disease risk factors does not mean you are destined to develop the disease. Consult your primary care physician today to learn your personal risk, and start your journey to living out the heart-healthy life you deserve.