The Good and Bad News When It Comes to Heart Disease
The bad news: There are some risk factors associated with heart disease that you can’t change. The good news: There are plenty of risk factors that are 100 percent under your control.
First, the bad news
You can’t choose your parents, and unfortunately, children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves. Your race and ethnicity can also play a role. African Americans tend to have more severe high blood pressure than Caucasians, and therefore a higher risk of heart disease.
Heart disease is also higher among Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans. This prevalence is partly due to higher rates of obesity and diabetes.
As for age and gender, more than four out of five people over age 65 die of heart disease. And although postmenopausal women are at greater risk than younger women, they’re still in a better position than men, who have a higher death rate from heart disease than women.
Now for the good news
People in these higher risk groups shouldn’t feel powerless. There are plenty of lifestyle changes that can offset these risk factors. And there’s ongoing research at RUSH University Medical Center and around the country that constantly results in new insights into this deadly disease. An important focus of heart research at RUSH is trying to understand why certain groups are affected more by heart disease and looking at ways to reduce their risk.
While researchers work to shed new light on heart health, those who are in high-risk groups—and even those who aren’t—can start fighting heart disease at home by addressing the risk factors they can control. “Leading a healthy lifestyle is important in avoiding heart disease,” says Henry Black, MD, associate vice president for research and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at RUSH. “That’s advice everyone should follow.”
Advice for everyone
Black offers the following tips:
- Don’t smoke.
- Reduce salt intake and make healthful food choices.
- Be active and get exercise—about 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
- See your doctor about taking a small dose of aspirin each day.
- If you have high blood pressure—also known as hypertension—high cholesterol or diabetes, follow your doctor’s advice about taking medications and making lifestyle changes to manage the disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
For advice on managing your blood pressure and weight, make an appointment with a doctor at RUSH by calling (888) 352-RUSH (7874). To learn more online about heart disease and other research and treatments at RUSH, visit our Web site.