5 Things You Didn't Know Increase Your Risk Of Heart Disease

Posted on: 7 January 2015

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By now, most Americans are familiar with some of the causes of heart disease. Obesity, inactivity, and diabetes are oft-repeated risk factors. While it is important to know those facts, there are many other things that can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, some of which you may not be aware. Here are 5 conditions many people don't associate with heart disease, how they contribute to heart risk, and how you can help combat them.

Gum Disease

You may not have known before just how important your trip to the dentist is. Recent studies have shown that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease than those without, and having dental problems can be as ominous a sign as high cholesterol. 

It appears the old adage "It's a long way from your heart," could be very misleading. The bacteria found in large concentrations in people with gum disease could cause plaque buildup in your arteries.

So what can you do about it? Brush twice daily, floss once, and see your dentist every six months. It really is that simple.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

You already know that having RA can be debilitating and miserable, but did you know it also increases your risk of heart disease? If avoiding painful flare ups wasn't enough motivation to control your RA symptoms, perhaps this information will be.

The inflammation that causes joint pain and aging also contributes to the hardening of your arteries and the buildup of plaque, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke. Taking a lot of prednisone is also associated with faster hardening of the arteries.

Controlling your RA symptoms is a good start in reducing your risk of heart disease. General guidelines for avoiding heart disease also apply, such as eating well and exercising, both of which may also contribute to better control of RA symptoms. Additionally, take only as much prednisone as you need to control your symptoms, and talk to your doctor about acceptable alternatives.

Overconsumption of Sugar

Not everyone who eats too much sugar is overweight. It is possible to eat far too many simple carbohydrates and stay slim. Overconsumption of sugar is a risk factor completely separate from the risks of obesity.

Eating too many simple carbohydrates can result in a rapid spike, followed by a rapid decline in blood glucose levels. That can result in an inflammatory response, which, as you learned above, can contribute to heart disease. Not to mention that consuming lots of sugar can contribute to insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes.

The solution is simply to eat less sugar. Make your grains whole grains, reduce the number of desserts you consume, and avoid sugary drinks. 

Not Washing Your Hands

Besides preventing the spread of many communicable illnesses, washing your hands may also help you avoid cardovascular problems. How's that for motivation to soap up?

Along with colds and flu, germs can cause heart infections. An infection of the heart naturally affects its ability to maintain health, and can result in furthering heart disease, particularly if you already have a heart condition.

To avoid this, simply wash your hands. Washing before every meal, and after every trip into public spaces, like the grocery store, may help prevent a heart attack.

Binge Drinking

Having a glass of wine with dinner can be beneficial for your heart. Drinking to excess, however, is a completely different story.

Drinking too much can lead to an increase in triglycerides and blood pressure, and alcohol is an insidious source of calories. Drinking too much alcohol is the same as eating too much.

Managing your alcohol consumption is the only way to mitigate this risk factor. One drink per day for women, or one to two for men is the recommended amount

As you can see, heart disease is not a simple condition. It has many causes and contributors. You can't control them all, but you can take steps to better prevent heart conditions before they even develop. Are you ready to get started? Then talk with a cardiologist like Mohan Jacob, MD, FACC, FCCP.