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Risk Factors

Do you know your risk for heart disease? Learn what increases our cardiovascular risk and how we can reduce or control risk factors that we may have.

  • What is venous thromboembolism and why is it dangerous?

  • Venous thromboembolism occurs when a clot forms in a vein, which can slow or completely block blood flow. The danger is that if these clots form in deep veins (most often in the leg or pelvis), they can break off and travel to the lungs or heart causing a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism can prevent your body from getting the oxygen that it needs, inflicting serious damage on internal organs.
  • When do I need to see a cardiologist?

  • If you have any risk factors for heart disease, you should see a cardiologist. These risk factors include overweight or obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and family history of heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Because cardiologists are specifically equipped to help patients manage and reduce their cardiovascular risk, it is important to discuss any concerns regarding your heart health with them.
  • When are women at greatest risk for heart attack during pregnancy?

  • This study shows that risk for heart attack may be elevated anytime during pregnancy, delivery or within 12 weeks after delivery.
  • What vaccines can help prevent HPV?
  • Two types of vaccines — Cervarix and Gardasil — are currently available to help protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. Both vaccines are recommended for girls between the ages of 11 and 12, or for females 13–26 years old who did not get the recommended doses earlier. Gardasil remains the only vaccine that helps protect males against HPV. It can be administered to males between the ages 9 and 26.
  • When is the best time to quit smoking before surgery?

  • Although results from the study above did not show any risk in quitting smoking close to the date of surgery, the earlier a patient can stop smoking before surgery, the better. Research has shown significant benefits to quitting smoking before surgery, but these benefits have been found in patients that quit early on, further from their surgery date.
  • What should I look for on food labels if I want to cut back on the sugar I eat in processed foods?

  • The first place to look is the Nutrition Facts box under carbohydrates, where you’ll find the grams of sugar in each serving. However, this sugar can be combination of added sweeteners and natural sugars in the food itself, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk. To get a better idea how much added sugar is in the product, examine the ingredient list. The more sugar there is in the food, the higher it will be on the list. Look for high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, agave nectar, and almost any word ending in “ose,” including sucrose, glucose, dextrose and maltose. Cane sugar, beet sugar, molasses and honey are also forms of added sugar.
  • What smoking cessation aids exist to help smokers quit?

  • A variety of tools exist to help smokers quit. Aside from quitting cold turkey without the use of aids, adults can be prescribed smoking cessation drugs that help to fight nicotine withdrawal and tobacco cravings. There are also various types of nicotine replacement therapy, including patches, inhalers, lozenges, gum and nasal spray that can help wean smokers off of cigarettes.
  • What should I do to reduce my heart attack risk?

  • Based on study findings and previous guidelines, you can help reduce your risk for heart attack by controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure, quitting smoking (if you’re a smoker), and maintaining a healthy weight. You should also try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
  • What types of medical tests emit radiation?

  • There are a number of medical tests that emit radiation, including X-rays, CT scans and cardiac imaging. However, each test can emit different doses of radiation.
  • What type of exercise allows for the greatest health benefits for patients with type 2 diabetes?

  • A study found that structured aerobic exercise was associated with the greatest hemoglobin A1c  reductions, followed by structured resistance training and combined training. Physical activity and dietary advice were also associated with hemoglobin A1c  reductions, but only when combined together or with exercise training.

  • How can I help reduce stress levels?

  • There are many methods for reducing stress, including exercise, meditation and deep breathing. Stress can affect adults in different ways, so it is important to try different stress reduction approaches in order to find one that works best for you.

  • How can I help reduce health implications of prolonged sitting without a standing desk?

  • There are many ways that adults can help break up the sedentary periods of the day, such as getting up every hour to take a quick walk or just standing in front of a desk and stretching. The act of simply switching between the standing and sitting positions throughout the day can help combat the effects of sitting all day and improve cardiovascular health.
  • How can I improve my sleeping habits?

  • Some good sleeping habits include sticking to one sleep schedule, creating a bedtime ritual, limiting daytime naps, managing stress and increasing physical activity. Together, these changes can help improve sleep. If not, patients should contact their doctor for further options.
  • How can I lower my cholesterol, aside from dietary changes?

  • Aside from changes in diet, adults can help lower their cholesterol by increasing physical activity, quitting smoking (if a smoker) and taking medications, when necessary.
  • How can I help prevent heart failure?

  • By controlling any risk factors you may have for heart failure, you can help to reduce your risk. You should also avoid tobacco use and maintain a healthy lifestyle, with a well balanced diet, healthy weight and regular physical activity.
  • How can I help improve life satisfaction?

  • Based on study findings, it is important to address satisfaction in career, family, sex life and one’s self-confidence. Although research is needed regarding effective methods to improve life satisfaction, try to make small changes to improve areas in your life that you feel least satisfied in.
  • How can I help prevent HPV?

  • Aside from the use of vaccines, both males and females can help reduce risk of acquiring the HPV infection by using condoms, being in a faithful relationship with one partner and/or limiting their number of sex partners. However, the only sure way to prevent HPV is to avoid all sexual activity.
  • How can I reduce my exposure to air pollutants?

  • Although it is impossible to completely avoid exposure to any air pollutants, you can check local air quality conditions on the news or weather and try to go outside when air quality conditions are best (often early morning or evening and in cooler temperatures). Also, avoid being outside around traffic-congested streets where pollution can be heavy.
  • How can I prevent AF?

  • The prevention of AF is similar to the prevention of heart disease. By maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and following a heart healthy diet you can significantly lower risk for AF. You can also help reduce risk by managing any risk factors for heart disease you may have, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking if you’re a smoker.
  • How can I prevent the development of "sick fat"?

  • You can help prevent adiposopathy or "sick fat" by maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise. Those who are overweight can lose weight to prevent or minimize “sick fat” in the body.

  • How can I prevent PFO?

  • Because the causes and risk factors for PFO are unknown, little is known about the prevention of this condition.
  • How can Americans help reduce their cardiovascular risk?

  • There are a variety of ways that Americans can reduce their cardiovascular risk. Given the obesity epidemic among children, increasing physical activity and improving diet are key for weight reduction and control. Among adults, lifestyle changes such as exercise, improved diet, stress reduction and quitting smoking are important. And for those with risk factors such as high blood pressure or diabetes, it is important to work with a health care provider to manage these conditions.
  • How are white blood cell counts tested?

  • White blood cell counts can be measured using a simple blood test, which is most commonly used to determine the presence of infections.
  • How can I cut out excess sugar in my diet?

  • Many studies (including earlier NHANES reports) show that sugary soft drinks contribute more calories to the U.S. diet than any other single food or beverage. One 12-oz can of soda contains about 40 to 50 grams of sugar, depending on the type of soda. That’s equivalent to 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar. Guzzle a 32-oz jumbo drink from a fast-food restaurant or convenience store, and you’ll take in 23 teaspoons of sugar. But sodas aren’t the only problem. Lots of hidden sugars find their way into processed foods in the form of high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

  • How can I cut down on my risk for PAD?
  • The risk factors for PAD are similar to those for heart disease. Some factors you cannot control—being older or having a family history of heart disease—but there are many that you can.

    • Get active. Exercise is good for your heart and circulation. It can help limit pain and disability when you have PAD.
    • Don’t smoke. Smoking is a key risk factor for PAD. Smokers are four times more likely to develop the condition than non-smokers.
    • Maintain a healthy body weight. Excess body fat is a risk factor for all forms of cardiovascular disease. Try to maintain a BMI of 25 or lower.
    • Control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. All of these conditions damage your arteries and reduce blood flow to all parts of your body. Adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle, and take the medications your doctor may have prescribed.

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