Risk factors you can't change!

There are three risk factors for heart disease that you can't choose or change. But you do need to be aware of them.

Your gender
Whether you are male or female, you can get heart disease. Women do have a lower risk until menopause - then the difference in risk levels diminishes. Ultimately, heart disease doesn't discriminate - it is the number one killer of both men and women in North America.

Your age
The longer you live, the greater your risk for heart disease. You can't change your age (I wish!), but you can take care of your body through proper diet, plenty of exercise, not smoking, and by managing your blood pressure and cholesterol. Do these things and you can slow the effects of aging. Plus you'll feel and look better too.

Your family history
While we can choose our lifestyle, we don't choose our genes! If your parents or other close relatives had a heart attack or heart disease at an early age (before 55 for men and before 65 for women), your risk of developing heart disease is higher - even if you follow a smart heart lifestyle.

One of the reasons may be a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol. Another may be a tendency for high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes.

Another reason may be the diet and/or activity levels your parents practiced, and in turn, taught you to practice. Perhaps your parents smoked and you were exposed to second hand smoke.

Knowing your increased risk should be an incentive to reduce and control your other risks through a heart healthy lifestyle. But you may find yourself wondering if prevention is futile if you have a family history of heart disease. "What's the point in bothering?" you might ask.

Because it might save your life!

When I was diagnosed with heart disease at age 51 I was very frustrated because I'd done everything "right" and still got sick. My doctor said, "Don't feel badly about this. Because you had a heart healthy lifestyle you postponed the onset by 10 years (my mother was in her early 40s when she got heart disease) AND you survived the initial event - which you might not have if you weren't so healthy otherwise!"

So rather than feel smart heart living is futile if you have a family history of this illness, see it as a wonderful opportunity to avoid, postpone, or even survive heart disease!

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