Cardiovascular disease risk factors are connected to each individual’s personal characteristics, lifestyle habits or other health problems that may damage the arteries and lead to arteriosclerosis. Some of these factors cannot be altered, such as age or sex, but patients must pay special attention to preventing and controlling the remaining factors.
The risk factors for ischaemic cardiomyopathy, in particular, and vascular disease, in general, are:
The chance of suffering an infarction increases with age. This increment is significant in men over 45 years and women over 55. This age difference between men and women regarding the onset of greater risk is due to the influence of hormones on the blood vessels.
Smoking. Smoking produces a very significant increase in the risk of suffering an infarction. It is one of the most common risk factors and, at the same time, one of the most preventable.
High Blood Pressure. High blood pressure damages artery walls and can accelerate the atherosclerosis process. Quitting smoking, losing weight and exercising are a few ways of reducing blood pressure which also have a very positive influence on the state of your arteries.
Hypercholesterolemia. You should monitor the fat levels in your blood using analytical tests. Elevated LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) or triglyceride levels have been linked to a greater risk of coronary disease. However, a high HDL cholesterol level (“good” cholesterol) offers protection against an infarction. A healthy diet and regular exercise are excellent ways of increasing the amount of “good” cholesterol.
Diabetes. Increased blood glucose levels (sugar levels) have been associated with a greater risk of an infarction. It is important for individuals to maintain good control over their blood sugar, either with tablets or insulin. Losing weight, eating an appropriate diet and exercising regularly can all be of great help when it comes to controlling sugar levels.
Genetics. A family history of angina pectoris or infarction (heart attack) can imply a genetic predisposition. If your family background includes men under 55 or women less than 65 years old who have suffered an infarction, then this should be taken into account. If a family member has experienced an infarction at an older age it is most likely due to normal ageing rather than a genetic component.
Sedentary lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher rate of obesity, high blood pressure and less control over diabetes and cholesterol levels. Regular physical activity provides a lot of benefits in terms of controlling these risk factors.
Obesity. Being overweight is increasingly common in today’s society and worsens the other risk factors. Even losing just a little weight can be very beneficial for the cardiovascular system.
Stress. Stress and anxiety trigger hormonal mechanisms that can, in the long term, damage arteries.
Drugs. Some drugs, e.g., cocaine or amphetamines, can modify how the arteries work and cause a vascular spasm; the artery contracts and stops the blood flow. Cocaine consumption is a relatively common cause of heart attacks, especially in the younger population.
Pre-eclampsia. Women who experience pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, or autoimmune diseases, may have an increased risk of suffering a future infarction.