World Heart Day was born at the turn of the 21st century, as a way for the World Heart Federation to spread awareness about heart health. Globally, heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death each year, resulting in the loss of over 17.5 million lives. As a global organization, the World Heart Federation is determined to see a 25 percent reduction in “premature deaths from cardiovascular disease around the world” by 2025.
If knowing is half the battle, then World Heart Day aims to be on the frontlines. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heart disease can help you take the necessary steps to prevent a future attack from occurring. By being aware of the risk factors, tweaking your diet and exercise routines, and making commitments to your overall health, you could be part of the 25 percent who lower their risk of heart disease over the next few years.
So, how do you know if you’re at risk of heart disease?
1. High Blood Glucose Levels
Blood glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar, is an indicative factor for diabetes. When your blood glucose levels are high, it could be a sign of undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes, which contributes to your risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, the World Heart Federation reports that cardiovascular disease “accounts for 60% of all deaths in people with diabetes, so if it’s left undiagnosed and untreated it can put you at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.”
2. Wider Waistline
While obesity can play a role in your risk of cardiovascular disease, being overweight specifically around your midsection can be an indicator even if you have a normal BMI (body mass index). A study published in the medical journal Stroke found that“waist circumference and related ratios can better predict cerebrovascular events than BMI.” In other words, excess abdominal fat increases your risk of experiencing a stroke, more so than your BMI.
3. Consistently High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is perhaps one of the best indicators of your risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the World Heart Federation, high blood pressure is “called the ‘silent killer’ because it has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people don’t realize they have it.” Regular visits to your physician can help keep you informed about your blood pressure levels, and may even save your life.
4. High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is also a common indicator of the risk of cardiovascular disease, as elevated levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL) in your bloodstream can be a sign of clogged or damaged arteries. Common sources of LDL cholesterol include trans fats in factory-produced foods; saturated fats in animal products like red meat, whole-fat dairy and cheese; and processed foods like deli meat, sausage and hotdogs.
If you feel as though you might be at risk for cardiovascular disease based on any of the above information, you should talk to your physician immediately. Together, you can come up with a plan to lower your risk by making changes to your diet and exercise routine, and even through the use of certain prescription medications.
An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.