Heart Disease Risk Heart Disease Risk

In its simplest context, the term heart disease refers to a condition which causes blockages in the coronary arteries of the heart. As such, the condition is also referred to as coronary heart disease. The condition is primarily caused by a substance known as plaque which usually builds up inside the coronary artery, causing blockage. Plaque is a combination of fatty and other materials and its build-up in the coronary artery causes the artery to narrow. Consequently, blood flow to the heart is slowed and plaque may cause damage to the heart muscle. Consequently, a heart attack ensues when permanent damage is caused to the heart muscles. As the coronary arteries narrow, the heart may also be rendered incapable of pumping blood to the rest of the body, giving rise to cardiac death.
According to Cohen & Hasselbring (2007), coronary heart disease has been identified as the leading and single-most cause of death for both women and men and accounts for about 30% of all deaths in the United States. While not all coronary heart diseases are fatal, those who manage to live with the condition have the quality of their life significantly undermined. This is because they have to contend with other conditions such as fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pains. These conditions, such as shortness of breath and chest pains, also form part of the symptoms of the disease. The conditions are more pronounced in elderly people, women and people with diabetes than in other groups of people.
A risk factor is any element that increases the probability of a person acquiring a certain disease. While some of the risk factors of heart disease are within the control of an individual, others, such as family history, are beyond a person`s control. However, most of the risk factors for coronary heart disease are based on the chosen lifestyle of an individual and are thus under one`s control. The risk factors include high cholesterol levels, obesity, cigarette smoking and hypertension. Dietary tendencies, especially in people who take diets which are low in fiber and high in fats, also pose a risk factor. Risk factors which are beyond the control of a person include environmental exposures and family history.
According to Shah (2006), the risk factors that are within one`s control account for about 90% of all the risk factors. As such, modifications in the lifestyle of an individual can greatly serve to decrease the risk factors of coronary heart disease. While treatment is available for heart disease in the form of medications and surgical procedures, people need not go to the extent of seeking such treatment when they can decrease the said risk factors in the first place.
There are numerous measures that could be taken to minimize the risk factors for coronary heart disease. A change in diet represents one of the most essential elements. One should stick to a diet that is high on fiber and low on fat. Such a diet should be high in fruits and vegetables, constituting a minimum of five potions a day. Risk factors associated with environmental aspects and behaviors can also be minimized by quitting smoking and avoiding the intake of second hand smoke. Alcohol consumption should also be minimized to the recommended daily units. According to Shah (2006), reductions in excessive alcohol intake to between one and two drinks a day can reduce the chance of acquiring heart disease by up to 30%. Additionally, one should look to decrease psychosocial stress and engage in vigorous exercise sessions that last at least 30 minutes a day. Partaking in these sessions at least five times a week enormously reduces heart disease risk factors. Screening tests should also be administered to people who show symptoms of coronary heart disease so as to take precautionary measures before the coronary arteries are damaged any further.
Cohen, B. & Hasselbring, B. (2007). Coronary heart disease: A guide to diagnosis and treatment. Omaha, NE: Addicus Books.
Shah, P. (2006). Risk factors in coronary heart disease. Oxford, UK: Taylor & Francis Books.