How to Determine Your Risk for Heart Disease


Your heart deserves some extra love, so start these healthy habits this February – the month dedicated to your heart. Because, let’s face it: The statistics show you’re never too young — or too old — to help keep this muscle pumping.

Throughout the month of February, messages to inspire heart health and campaigns to wear red are pumping energy into the fight against heart disease and stroke. But what does heart health mean to you?

Like many people, you might think heart disease is only a problem happening to older men with a history of heart disease in their family. When you consider the facts from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, heart disease is a problem we all face.

  • Fact 1: In the United States, heart disease is the no. 1 cause of death for men and women. It affects many people at midlife and it can happen to those who “feel fine.”
  • Fact 2: Fifty percent of men and 64 percent of women who die suddenly of heart disease have no previous symptoms of the disease.  
  • Fact 3: A recent study shows two-thirds of teenagers already have a least one risk factor for heart disease.

With these facts, you might be asking yourself this question: If I don’t have symptoms, how do I know if I am at risk for heart disease?

The answer is: Get to know your own risk factors and the state of your heart. 

What’s Your Risk for Heart Disease?

Some risks, such as smoking cigarettes or being overweight, are obvious. Other risk factors not typically presenting visible symptoms are high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. And of course, family history plays a role in your personal risk factor as well.

Talk With Your Doctor

Your doctor can be an important partner in helping you set and reach goals for heart health. Rather than waiting for your doctor to mention heart disease or its risk factors, bring a list of questions.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

Getting answers to these questions will give you important information about your heart health and how to improve it. Here are 10 questions to ask your doctor developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

  1. What is my risk for heart disease?
  2. What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me, and what do I need to do about it?
  3. What are my cholesterol numbers? (These include total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides.) What do they mean for me, and what do I need to do about them?
  4. What are my body mass index (BMI) and waist measurements? Do they indicate I need to lose weight for my health?
  5. What is my blood sugar level? Does it mean I’m at risk for diabetes?
  6. What other screening tests for heart disease do I need? How often should I return for checkups for my heart health?
  7. For smokers: What can you do to help me quit smoking?
  8. How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart? What kinds of activities are helpful?
  9. What is a heart healthy eating plan for me? Should I see a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist to learn more about healthy eating?
  10. How can I tell if I’m having a heart attack?

The key to talking to your doctor about your heart health is to be open about your lifestyle habits and ask questions when you aren’t sure of technical terms. 

To learn more, join us for a luncheon where Chris Rowan, MD, of Renown Institute for Heart & Vascular Health will address heart health throughout the ages.