Not So Common Risk Factors for Heart Disease

I recently read an article written by Dr. Michael Mogadam, a clinical associate professor of medicine at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC.  Well, I loved it so I thought I should paraphrase it for you.  The article is titled, “Five Little-Known Ways to Lower Heart Attack Risk”.  In addition to the most common issues relating to heart disease, for example, lack of physical activity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking, there are some risk factors that are not so common.

  • Boost your HDL level – Although LDL numbers have been considered the major culprit in heart attack risk, low HDL cholesterol is actually the bigger risk factor – especially in women.  About 70% of women and half of all men with coronary artery disease have low HDL cholesterol.  If you’re a woman who has HDL below 55 or a man with HDL below 45, you should take steps to boost your good cholesterol.  Here are ways to boost your good cholesterol:  Exercise, lower simple carbohydrate intake, “taking 1500mg of the B vitamin niacin under the supervision of a health-care provider can raise HDL by 25%”.
  • Determine your LDL size – LDL cholesterol particles come in 2 sizes – Large (type A) and small (type B).  Having more of type B can increase your risk by 300%-500% even when LDL levels are normal.  If you can, have your LDL particle size measured.  Here are some great ways to decrease your type B count.  Eat a diet consisting of 30% fat, mostly in the form of monosaturated fats, and limit carbohydrate intake to no more than 45% of total calories.
  • Know your birth weight – Research has shown that if you weighed less than 5.5lbs at birth, you are more likely to develop coronary artery disease than people who weighed more than 7.5lbs at birth.  If you were, in fact, less than 5.5lbs, discuss this with your doctor.  Perhaps enlighten him as to the connection of low birth weight and coronary artery disease.  Of course, the thought is here, if your doctor is aware of the research and the connection between the two, perhaps he will test you more often for hypertension, cholesterol, etc.
  • Choose heart-healthy beverages – Research has shown that one glass of wine definitely reduces risk of heart disease in women and men.  Additionally, lots and lots and lots of water can only help.  Research has shown that drinking five or more glasses of water daily reduces fatal heart attack risk in men by 51% and in women by 35%.  Water seems to protect against heart attacks by making blood less likely to clot.  Minerals in hard tap water, such as calcium and magnesium, also may help guard against heart disease.
  • Take folic acid – “This B vitamin has been shown to lower levels of homocysteine, a protein in the blood that significantly increases risk for cardiovascular disease when it is elevated.  Folic acid also lowers the risk for heart attack and stroke.  In continuing research of more than 80,000 nurses, the risk for heart attack was reduced by about 6% for every additional 100 micrograms of folic acid in their diet.”  Eat more spinach, asparagus, lima beans, wheat germ and fortified cereals.

Folks, some of my own personal thoughts in addition to Dr. Mogadam’s article.  Exercise can mean just going out walking with your friends.  Try fast walking three or four times a week.  I definitely think that more fiber as part of your daily routine increases that HDL number.  Please remember that whole grains are necessary.  The doctor says five or more glasses of water per day, I definitely suggest more water.  Especially when taking into consideration the amount of caffeinated drinks we tend to consume.

So, here’s my thought.  With the exception of low birth weight, we can definitely incorporate lifestyle changes to impact everything else in Dr. Mogadam’s article.  Let’s all make a conscious effort to do our part in reducing the risk factors of heart disease.

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