Improve Your Odds: Reduce Your Risk Factors for Heart Disease


Did you know that 80 percent of chronic illness, including heart disease, is the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices? Learn how to reduce your risk factors and improve your odds. 

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By Anthony Field, M.D., cardiologist, Renown Institute for Heart and Vascular Health

Unfortunately, a heart attack is not an uncommon occurrence these days. More and more men — and seemingly healthy women — experience this cardiac event.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. For 210,000 of those individuals, it’s their second heart attack. That’s why it’s important to know the signs and symptoms and act when they present. Call 911. Go to the ER if you have any reason to believe you might be suffering from a heart attack.


Non-modifiable Risk Factors

But let’s back up a bit and talk about what puts you at risk. Knowing your level of risk can help prompt you to seek help more quickly than you might otherwise. So what puts you at risk? There are two groups of factors: non-modifiable risk factors, the ones you can do nothing about; and modifiable risk factors, onesyou can actually address.

Risk factors you can’t change include age, gender and family history. What you can do is live a heart-healthy lifestyle and make sure you undergo regular screenings once you reach a certain age or if doctors determine you’re at extreme risk.

Risk Factors You Can Change

Did you know that 80 percent of chronic illness, including heart disease, is the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices? That leaves a lot of room for you to make healthier choices to reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attack, increase your longevity, and greatly improve your quality of life in the process.

Whatever your risk, there’s nothing stopping you from living a heart-healthy lifestyle. And making those smart choices can only help mitigate those risk factors in your control, which include:

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Don’t wait for a cardiac event. Don’t wait for a heart disease diagnosis. The heart has a big job to do and can use all the help it can get. Just imagine: Your heart never stops. It continually pumps blood throughout the body, carrying oxygen and vital nutrients to your organs and tissues. How can you help? Adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle now.

Live Heart Healthy

Deciding to make a change is a big first step. Take a look at your diet, exercise and stress levels and see what you need to change and what you’re doing well.

  • Eat a diet of skinless poultry and fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and nuts and legumes. Hold back on the sweets, red meats, sodium and unhealthy fats.
  • You don’t have to go to the gym to move your body. Just do something every day to get your heart rate up. If you’re just starting out, try 20 to 30 minutes, seven days a week. Yes, it’s challenging. But remember that some exercise is better than no exercise. So do what you can, even if it’s a quick 10 minutes.
  • Don’t ignore your stress levels. Keeping them in check is just as important as exercise and eating well. Find ways to lighten your load. Look for positive, social outlets. Try meditation, yoga or good music.

What else can you do? Quit tobacco if you’re a smoker, and do your best to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Remember that if you’ve already experienced a heart attack, you’re at greater risk for a second. Which is why it’s especially important that you focus on living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor who can help you come up with a plan for healthy living tailored specifically to your needs.

Don’t wait. Start today. Get outside. Breathe some fresh air. Go for a walk. Eat a healthy dinner. Enjoy the company of friends. Lifestyle change is not always easy, but going at your own pace you can find some pleasure in learning to feel better.

Learn more about heart health at Renown at

This article also appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Health Source Feb. 25.