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Heart Disease Risk Factors

Risk factors are habits or behaviors that make a person more likely to develop heart disease. The Chester County Hospital offers a variety of educational programs, including Heart Tracks, aimed at teaching participants how to reduce their risk of heart disease. Risk factors are divided into two groups:

Risk Factors That Can Be Changed or Controlled
Smoking: Smoking can double the risk of heart attack! Cigarette smoke has many negative effects on your heart. For example, the nicotine in cigarette smoke raises blood pressure and speeds up you heart rate. Continuing to smoke after heart surgery increases the chance that your new bypasses will start closing off just like the original arteries. If you smoke, Stop Smoking Now! programs are available at The Chester County Hospital.

High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure adds a workload to your heart and arteries. Blood pressure is the amount of pressure placed on the arteries as the heart pumps blood out to all parts of the body. High blood pressure (Hypertension) is often referred to as the "silent killer" because it may not produce any symptoms. It can cause your heart to enlarge and your arteries to harden. It can damage your kidneys and cause heart attack or stroke.

High Blood Cholesterol: Can build up and block arteries

Diabetes: Associated with an increased risk of heart disease

Stress: Can cause high blood pressure, increased or irregular heartbeats and high cholesterol

Obesity: Makes the heart work harder to supply blood to the body and harder to control cholesterol

Physical Inactivity: Can double the risk of heart attack and contribute to obesity

Risk Factors That Cannot Be Changed
Family History: Heart disease can run in families.
Age: Risk of heart disease increases with age.
Gender: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, as well as for women after menopause.
Metabolic Syndrome: A precursor to heart disease, Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome X, Insulin Resistance Syndrome or "diabesity") is a combination of unfavorable heart disease risk factors.
The primary risk factor associated with Metabolic Syndrome is central obesity, or excessive fat tissue in and around the abdomen. Other characteristics of this syndrome include elevated triglycerides, high blood pressure and glucose intolerance. A sedentary lifestyle and nutritionally unbalanced diet also contribute to Metabolic Syndrome.

If you have any combination of these risk factors, please consult your physician.

Last Updated: 7/20/2009