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Reducing risk factors for heart disease


Anthony Sandoval, MD, is a cardiologist on staff at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale. His office can be reached at (602) 867-8644.

Question: What are the primary risk factors for heart disease, and how can these risk factors best be managed or avoided?

Answer: Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of death in the U.S., and by 2020 it is expected to be the No. 1 killer worldwide. The statistics paint an alarming picture. In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 1.5 million heart attacks each year, of which 500,000 result in death. This year, heart disease will cost the U.S. more than $310 billion in health-care services, medications and lost productivity. Perhaps the most staggering is that more than 25 percent of deaths in the U.S. are attributed to heart disease.

Contributing to the prevalence of heart disease is a combination of risk factors. Some risk factors are uncontrollable, such as gender, heredity, race and age. However, most risk factors are within our control or are modifiable. These risk factors include smoking, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and lack of exercise. Of these, smoking is the most lethal, yet most controllable. The presence of each risk factor considerably increases an individual's risk of developing heart disease, and the presence of multiple factors drastically increases this risk.

The first recommendation for decreasing risk factors is to stop smoking. Additionally, following a diet that is low in fat and cholesterol and increasing your physical activity to 30 minutes a day can be significant steps toward reducing cholesterol and blood pressure levels, managing diabetes and working toward a healthier body mass index.

Seeing your physician on a regular basis and consistently following his or her recommendation can also help reduce, or at least manage, your risk of heart disease. Make sure to discuss any health concerns with your physician and always consult him or her before making significant diet, exercise or lifestyle changes.

Reviewed December 2010

Page Last Modified: 09/03/2015
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