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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.

  • Can sleep apnea cause other complications, aside from cardiovascular events?

  • Yes. Sleep apnea can cause a number of complications, such as daytime fatigue and complications with medications and surgery. However, treatments for sleep apnea, such as CPAP, may help minimize side effects and complications.
  • Do radiation risks associated with medical tests often outweigh the benefits?

  • Risks and benefits of medical tests vary between the type of test and the health and history of each patient. Therefore, the risks and benefits for tests are unique to each patient and should be discussed with a health care provider.
  • Do episodic physical activity and sexual activity have equal risk for cardiac events?

  • Among the 14 studies analyzed in the case-crossover study mentioned above, data demonstrates a higher risk for episodic physical activity in triggering a heart attack than sexual activity. On average, episodic physical activity increases risk for a heart attack by 3.45 times, whereas sexual activity only slightly doubles risk. However, habitual activity significantly lowers risk for both types of episodic activities.
  • Do factors other than inactivity contribute to health risks associated with TV viewing?

  • Although the sedentary behavior associated with TV viewing is a large part of related health risks, researchers believe there are other factors that contribute to these negative effects. For example, many adults and children partake in unhealthy and mindless eating while watching TV, which can cause weight gain. TV advertisements may also promote unhealthy habits in viewers, such as consuming unhealthy foods or starting to smoke.
  • Is 6-8 hours of sleep right for everyone?

  • Getting 6–8 hours of sleep each night is a useful guide for most adults, but may not be right for everyone. Some may feel tired with any less than 9 hours of sleep, while others may feel well rested with 6. It is most important to listen to what your body tells you and get the sleep you need to feel well rested and energized in the morning.
  • In which types of foods are n-3 PUFAs found?

  • N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can be found in most oily fish and fish oils. These can be found in their natural forms (fish), as well as in daily supplements.
  • How safe is bariatric surgery?

  • Bariatric surgery has become increasingly safe and effective over the years, and less invasive. Depending on the type of surgery, risk of serious complications and death is usually very low, often less than 1%.
  • How should I prepare for "quit day?"

  • Getting ready to quit smoking is just as important as the actual "quit day." Here are some steps you can take:

    • Talk to your doctor not only about stop-smoking medications, but also about how quitting smoking may affect other medications you’re taking.
    • Arrange for a support system to help you at home, at work and in your social life.
    • Keep a record of when you smoke and why. This will help you identify triggers to smoking. Once you know your triggers, you can plan how to cope with them without smoking.

    Make quit day a big deal by starting fresh in lots of ways:

    • Throw away all of your cigarettes. Check all of your hiding places to make sure you get rid of every last one.
    • Get rid of your ashtrays.
    • Clean your house and wash your clothes to remove the cigarette smell.
    • Cut down on your caffeine intake starting several days before quit day. Nicotine makes your body metabolize caffeine more quickly. Once you stop smoking, you’ll feel jittery and nervous if you keep drinking the same amount of caffeine.
    • Drink lots of water.
    • Get some exercise. You’ll feel better and it will keep your mind off smoking.
  • Is psoriasis preventable?

  • Psoriasis seems to be a genetic condition for which there is no prevention. However, it can be treated through topical ointments, medications and/or phototherapy, which can minimize symptoms and help prevent infections.
  • What are common heart failure symptoms?

  • Heart failure symptoms often present themselves slowly but progress and worsen over time. These symptoms include shortness of breath; swelling of feet, ankles or abdomen; fatigue; cough and weight gain.
  • What are common heart failure symptoms?

  • Heart failure symptoms often present themselves slowly but progress and worsen over time. These symptoms include shortness of breath; swelling of feet, ankles or abdomen; fatigue; cough and weight gain.
  • Should pregnant women give up coffee?

  • Many women avoid coffee during pregnancy because they are concerned that caffeine can increase the risk miscarriage or preterm birth. However, a 2010 position statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that moderate caffeine consumption--about 200 milligrams or the equivalent of a 12-ounce cup of coffee--does not appear to be harmful.  When calculating your daily caffeine intake, be sure to account for caffeine from sources such as tea, cola, and chocolate, as well.
  • Is the U.S. the only country combating obesity rates?

  • The U.S. is not alone. Most industrialized countries have experienced significant rises in obesity over the last 20 years. In fact, it is estimated that there are about about1 billion overweight adults globally, with at least 300 million obese. Fortunately, however, the CDC reports that other countries around the world have also had success in stabilizing obesity rates in recent years.
  • Isn't running one of the best ways to stay healthy?

  • Although running is a great form of exercise, especially when practiced regularly, runners can have many of the same risk factors as their non-running counterparts. That’s why it’s important to see your doctor regularly and discuss which types of physical activity are the safest and most effective for you.
  • Other than being optimistic, how can adults decrease risk for stroke?

  • Adults can reduce risk for stroke by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heart healthy diet and staying physically active. Any additional risk factors, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, should be properly addressed and controlled through lifestyle changes and working with your healthcare provider.
  • How important is maintaining a healthy weight?

  • Overweight and obesity greatly increase risk for diabetes, heart disease and a number of cancers — all of which can be life threatening. Therefore, it is important to take action toward maintaining a healthy weight, as losing just 5-10% of your weight can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce risk for heart disease.
  • How does stress affect blood pressure?

  • When the body encounters stress, heart rate increases and blood vessels narrow, causing a temporary rise in blood pressure. When stress becomes a chronic condition, it can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) — a risk factor for stroke, heart attack and heart disease.
  • How is health literacy assessed?

  • Health literacy is the ability to understand and use healthcare information to make decisions and follow treatment instructions. Health literacy can be assessed by asking patients certain questions about their ability to read and understand hospital materials, and how confident they are in filling forms out during doctor appointments.

  • How does bariatric surgery work?

  • Gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries work by changing your digestive system to limit how much you can eat, by reducing the absorption of nutrients, or both. Weight-loss surgeries are used when standard weight-loss therapies such as diet and exercise have failed to work.
  • How does physical activity improve heart health?

  • Physical activity promotes many health benefits, such as weight control, blood pressure reduction and stress reduction. Together, these health benefits translate to improved cardiovascular health.
  • How does peripheral artery disease impact cardiovascular risk?
  • A person with PAD has a six to seven times greater risk of CAD, heart attack, stroke, or transient ischemic attack ("mini stroke") than the rest of the population. If a person has heart disease, he or she has a 1 in 3 chance of having blocked arteries in the legs. Early diagnosis and treatment of PAD, including screening high-risk individuals, are important to prevent disability and save lives. PAD treatment may stop the disease from progressing and also reduce the risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.
  • How does sleep apnea effect cardiovascular risk and heart failure?

  • Frequent drops in oxygen levels and reduced sleep quality can put stress on the body — including the heart. This extra stress may not only increase risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and arrhythmias, but also cause or worsen heart failure.
  • How does high sodium intake increase risk for heart disease?
  • High sodium levels increase blood pressure by stiffening the walls of the arteries, making the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. If a diet is consistently high in sodium, these effects can lead to hypertension, a significant risk factor for heart disease. The DASH diet provides guidance for reducing your sodium intake.
  • How does inflammation increase cardiovascular risk?

  • The exact role that inflammation plays in cardiovascular health remains unclear. However, experts suggest that the build-up of plaque in the arteries may cause inflammation, and as the body continually attacks these fatty deposits, it can wear the body down and/or cause blood clots—one of the most common causes of heart attack and stroke.
  • How many women are affected by heart disease during pregnancy?
  • It is estimated that 0.2-4% of all pregnancies in western industrialized countries, such as the United States, are complicated by heart disease. Of these complications, high blood pressure and hypertensive disorders are the most common conditions that present during pregnancy, occurring in 6-8% of all pregnancies.

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