Of 5 Risk Factors for Heart Disease, You Can Change 4

Article excerpt

Q. What are the major risk factors for heart disease?

- Jack, Lake Zurich

A. Though the death rate is declining, cardiovascular disease still is responsible for 50 percent of deaths in the United States.

Coronary heart disease, a major contributor, has specific risk factors that doctors have identified over the past 30 years. Your personal characteristics and environment are linked to your susceptibility to heart disease.

Of these, five major risk factors are used not only to determine susceptibility but also to arrive at your exercise prescription.

After age and family history, the remaining "big four" risk factors are at least partly within your control.

- Age is a risk factor largely because of its association with other risk factors such as hypertension, elevated blood lipids and glucose intolerance.

After age 35 in men and age 45 in women, the chances of dying from heart disease increases progressively and dramatically. Middle-aged men are six times more likely than women to die from a heart attack.

Heart disease in American women, however, is still higher than in other countries.

Family history is also important. If members of your family have had heart disease early in life, you are also at risk.

- High blood lipid level is a crucial factor in the initiation of the process of atherosclerosis. Serum cholesterol levels over 200 mg about doubles the risk of heart attack. Over 300 mg, the risk increases fourfold. …