Do You Have a Heart Disease Risk Factor? Physical Therapy Can Help

| Live Your Life PT

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.1 The term heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions with the most common type in the United States being Coronary Heart Disease (CAD).2 Age is the strongest nonmodifiable risk factor for CAD with 31% of male and 25.4% of female patients ages 80 and older have CAD according to the American Heart Association.3 Health conditions, lifestyle factors, age, and family history can all be risk factors for heart disease.4 The best way to lower your risk of heart disease is to know your risk factors and take steps to change the modifiable risk factors. Unfortunately, some risk factors are out of your control like age and family history. However, the three key risk factors are all modifiable and within your control including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.4 About half of all Americans have at least one of these three key risk factors.4 Here are the strongest heart disease risk factors that are all within your control:

  1. High Blood Pressure: This a medical condition where the pressure in your blood vessels is too high and if not controlled can affect other organs in your body including heart, kidneys, and brain.4 The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is measure your blood pressure at home with blood pressure cuff. Normal pressure is 120/80 and is considered high if it reads 130/80.5 Anything 180/110 or above more than once is considered a hypertensive crisis indicating you should seek medical treatment right away.5
  2. High Blood Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a substance produced by liver and found in certain foods.4 However, if we get more than what we need through the foods we eat everyday then the cholesterol can start to build up in our arteries and narrowing the space for blood to flow through.4 The buildup of cholesterol can decrease blood flow to our essential organs including heart, brain, and kidneys.4 The best way to monitor your cholesterol levels is through a simple blood test by your health care team.4 In the results you may see LDL cholesterol levels and HDL cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is considered “bad cholesterol” as this is the one that will build up as plaque in your arteries.4 On the other hand, HDL cholesterol is considered “good cholesterol” which is provide some protection against heart disease.4
  3. Tobacco Use: Cigarette smoke can damage the heart and blood vessels which can increase your risk for various heart conditions.4 Even exposure to secondhand smoke can increase your risk for heart disease.4 If you are thinking about quitting, reach out to your primary care provider to determine the best options for you.
  4. Diabetes Mellitus: Diabetes, especially unmanaged diabetes mellitus, can cause sugars to build up in the blood.4 Individuals with diabetes mellitus are more likely to die from heart disease than individuals who do not have diabetes mellitus.4 Discuss with your primary care provider about ways to prevent and manage diabetes mellitus.  
  5. Obesity: Obesity or “excess body fat” is linked to increased LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lower HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.4 Visit your primary care provider to learn more about what a “healthy weight” would be for your body type and if necessary, how to reduce weight in a healthy manner.
  6. Increased Alcohol Use: The recommendation for alcohol use is no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. Alcohol in excess can raise blood pressure levels, increase level of triglycerides, and increase your risk for heart disease.4
  7. Unhealthy Diet: Diet high in saturated and trans-fat, and cholesterol has been linked to heart disease.4 Moreover a diet high in sodium can increase your blood pressure.4  
  8. Low Physical Activity: Low physical activity increases your risk for heart disease as well as developing other health conditions that are also risk factors including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.4 Good news! Regular physical activity is a protective factor meaning it can lower your risk for heart disease.4

Healthy diet and regular exercise are key to reducing your risk for heart disease and other medical conditions. Live Your Life offers physical therapy wellness services designed to improve your fitness level and physical activity. Once you are ready to transition away from physical therapy services, we offer personal training services that will help you to continue to meet your fitness goals. Moreover, we offer dietary services and nutrition counseling by a Registered Dietitian who will provide evidenced based tools and techniques to make positive changes to your eating habits. Click here to contact us today for a free consultation!  


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC – Heart Disease Home – DHDSP. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published 2019.

2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heart Health Information: About Heart Disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published May 14, 2019.

3Fadah K, Hechanova A, Mukherjee D. Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, and Management of Coronary Artery Disease in the Elderly. Int J Angiol. 2022;31(4):244-250. Published 2022 Aug 25. doi:10.1055/s-0042-1751234

4CDC. Heart Disease Risk Factors. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published March 21, 2023.

5Research C for DE and. High Blood Pressure–Understanding the Silent Killer. FDA. Published online January 21, 2021.

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