Cardiovascular disease comes with a long list of recognised risk factors. In fact, the list of risks keeps increasing as more is discovered about the condition. In recent years, some surprising new risk factors have come to light, including a history of premature birth and various lifestyle factors.
The good news is even small lifestyle changes can make a big difference in reducing the risks. In this blog, we’ll explore the conditions and lifestyle factors that increase cardiovascular risk and how you can turn the tide.
Conditions known to increase the risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Certain health conditions can make you more prone to coronary artery disease by stimulating the inflammasome – a part of the immune system responsible for inflammation. For instance, gout (a form of inflammatory arthritis) can significantly increase your risk of an acute cardiovascular event, like a heart attack or stroke.
Similarly, patients with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus have been found to have premature coronary artery disease. Even inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, has been linked to an increased tendency to develop heart disease. And let’s not forget psoriasis, a skin condition that amplifies inflammation in the body, which in turn can increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 50%.
What lifestyle risk factors are linked to Cardiovascular Disease?
Prolonged stress, for example, has been linked to an increased risk of recurrent heart attacks. It promotes high cortisol levels and this in turn can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Poor sleep can also affect your cardio-vascular risk, especially sleep apnoea has been linked to high blood pressure and acceleration of coronary artery disease.
The most important risk factor is however a poor diet. Simply put, anything processed or ultra-processed is to be avoided. The ideal cardiac diet would be mainly vegetable based and especially high in green leafy vegetables.
Reducing risks of Cardiovascular Disease
Controlling and reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease is often a matter of adopting healthier lifestyle habits. Here are some key strategies you can follow:
Well balanced, whole-food based diet: Be conscious of your dietary choices. Opt for nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Avoid consumption of sugary drinks and processed foods.
Regular exercise: Physical activity is important for endothelial health. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. This could be anything from a brisk walk to a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session.
Stress management: Chronic stress can be detrimental to heart health. Consider techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises to manage stress levels. Balancing work and personal life is also crucial. If work stress is high, discuss flexible hours or stress management solutions with your employer.
Regular check-ups: Keep up with regular medical check-ups to catch any potential problems early. This is especially important if you have a condition known to increase cardiovascular disease risk.
Smoking and alcohol: Quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake. Both tobacco and excessive alcohol can significantly raise your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Remember, while you can’t change some risk factors – like age and family history – there are things you can control. Attending a regular cardio health screening is a great way to identify any potential issues early. To keep on top of your cardiovascular health, book a cardio health screening appointment with Dr Konrad Grosser today.