By: on In Highlights

Is your lifestyle putting you at risk for a heart attack?

There has been plenty of disagreement on the topic of who is most at risk for a heart attack. Many people believe that genetics are to blame, while others claim that lifestyle is the real cause. Regardless of opinion as to which constitutes the greater risk, there are certain lifestyle choices that have been unanimously shown to increase the risk of heart disease.

Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do, from a health standpoint.

While it is common knowledge that smoking causes lung cancer, it is less well known that smoking also drastically increases your odds of having a heart attack. Smoking damages your blood vessels and contributes to the formation of blood clots. Smoking also causes your heart to beat faster, and increases blood pressure. Cigarette smoking decreases the body’s tolerance for exercise and restricts the amount of oxygen that reaches your heart. Given the severity of these risks, it is recommended that you refrain from smoking, even casually.

High cholesterol can increase your risk of having a heart attack. Cholesterol plays an important role in various functions within the body, such as hormone production. As is the case with most things in life, however, moderation is paramount.

While the right amount of cholesterol is beneficial, an excess of cholesterol can be dangerous. Typically, the liver produces enough cholesterol that dietary supplementation is not necessary. Excess cholesterol can build up on the arterial walls. This build-up reduces blood flow to and from the heart and, if left uncorrected, could eventually block the artery completely. Thankfully, there are several things you can do to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level. The first and most important thing is to be aware. Because high cholesterol does not cause any symptoms, many don’t realize they are at risk until it is too late. A simple blood test can determine if your levels are too high.

Changing your diet to incorporate more heart-healthy foods is an excellent way to reduce your risk of high cholesterol and, by extension, heart disease.

Leading a sedentary lifestyle is another habit that increases your likelihood of having a heart attack. Physical inactivity has been shown to have a drastic impact on heart health. This impact is largely due to the fact that lack of physical activity often leads to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity, all of which are major risk factors for a heart attack. Individuals who do not get the recommended level of physical activity are more prone to obesity. Being overweight is yet another risk factor for heart disease, as is Diabetes. The good news, however, is that physical activity does not necessarily mean going to the gym for hours a day. On the contrary, something as simple as going for a walk a few times a week will go far in improving your cardiovascular health.

Alcohol is another habit that increases your odds of having a heart attack. In women, those who take oral contraceptives are increasingly at risk for blood clots and heart disease. Women who take birth control and smoke, or drink, are doubly at risk. In order to keep your heart functioning as it should, it is recommended that you consume no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day.