10 Surprising Risk Factors of Heart Disease

Lacking Social Support Having a support network can do wonders for your overall health. Research shows that people with a strong social support system have a… Aisha Abdullah - February 6, 2023

Lacking Social Support

Having a support network can do wonders for your overall health. Research shows that people with a strong social support system have a lower risk of heart disease than those who are more socially isolated. Spending time with loved ones can be a great way to relieve stress and boost your mood. On the other hand, social isolation increases stress, the risk of mental health conditions like depression, and vulnerability to health conditions affecting the heart and brain. One study found who had few friends or were unhappy with their relationships had a 29 percent higher risk of heart disease than those with strong social support. That’s the same increase in heart disease risk that comes with smoking!

Now that you know how important friends are to your health, you might be wondering where to find them. Making friends as an adult can be really challenging and downright scary. The tried and true way to make friends is to figure out what you enjoy doing, but that may be easier said than done. Volunteer at a charity or sign up for a class to meet new people. If you’re wanting a fresh way to connect with people, dating apps have romantic and platonic friend features.


Neglecting Your Gums

If you need yet another reason to brush and floss every day, here’s one: Having unhealthy gums may make you more vulnerable to heart disease. Periodontitis is a severe gum disease caused by a bacterial infection in the gums. If this infection spreads to the blood, it can trigger inflammation in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease. Research suggests that people with gum disease have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those without gum disease. So, by taking care of your teeth and gums, you’re also taking care of your heart. The best way to prevent periodontitis is by treating gum disease early or preventing it from developing in the first place.

Some signs that you might have gum disease include red, sore, puffy, or discolored gums, gums that bleed especially when you floss, pus or brown buildup around the gum line, and gum pain when chewing. Gum disease is very common and completely preventable. Make sure you’re brushing correctly; twice a day (and possibly after every meal). Floss every day, NO exceptions. Don’t skip your regular dental cleaning. You need to make sure that you give your dentist an opportunity to remove your tartar buildup. That buildup is what causes gum disease. Use mouthwash; it prevents plaque and buildup. And quit smoking. For multiple reasons. Just quit smoking.


Sitting All Day

Studies suggest that people with a sedentary lifestyle have a higher risk of heart disease, even those who exercise regularly. Sitting for long periods causes blood flow to slow, leading to plaque buildup in the blood vessels. In addition, sedentary lifestyles are linked to higher inflammation and insulin resistance, which can increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes. One study found that people with sedentary lifestyles had twice the risk of heart disease as people who were more active, even when they had similar diets.

A 2011 study found that sedentary lifestyles were associated with a 147 percent increase in serious cardiovascular events and a 90 percent increase in death from cardiovascular disease. Breaking up sitting with physical activity can help offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. In general, you should aim to walk five minutes every two hours you’re sitting. Take short walks during the day and use a standing desk to break up all that sitting you do during the workday. You can also cut down on sedentary time at home by including your family in some nice outdoor activities. Even just a walk around the block after dinner will help.


Eating Too Many Sweets

Diets that are high in added sugars have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, and sweetened drinks like soda and juice are some of the worst culprits. Research shows that consuming too much sugar increases the calorie-storing triglycerides in the body. High levels of triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. High-sugar diets are associated with weight gain, high blood pressure, inflammation, and high cholesterol, all of which contribute to heart disease. It’s important to remember that sugar isn’t inherently bad. Our bodies can’t survive without sugar as an energy source. Natural sugars like those found naturally in fruit, vegetables, and milk are important for our bodies to function. These foods are also a source of other important nutrients.

Added sugars like those found in cakes, candy, and soft drinks don’t have those benefits. And this applies to added sugars with better reputations, such as honey and agave. Added sugar is added sugar, no matter the source. Cutting down on added sugar could help reduce your heart disease risk. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume no more than three tablespoons (150 calories) of added sugar each day. Ditch the sugary drinks and reduce processed sugar consumption every day.


Getting The Flu

A 2018 study found that people with the flu had a six times higher risk of a heart attack in the week after their infection. That startling finding highlights why it’s much better to prevent infections if possible because even seemingly minor infections can have serious complications. When viral infections, including the flu, travel to the heart, they can cause damage that leads to heart disease. It’s not known exactly how the flu impacts the heart, but we know the infection can increase inflammation, which is a risk factor for heart disease. So doctors recommend that everyone eligible, especially older adults, get their flu shot each year. The shot doesn’t just protect against a nasty seasonal infection; it also protects against an increased risk of cardiovascular conditions.

The flu increases the risk of heart disease by causing inflammation, putting strain on the heart, weakening the immune system, and exacerbating preexisting heart conditions. This can lead to the formation of blood clots, damage to blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. People with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease should get a flu shot and take precautions to reduce their risk of getting the flu. If you do get the flu, get rest and stay hydrated. And if you’re high-risk, ask your doctor about antivirals.


Experiencing Trauma

Traumatic events have a lasting effect on us. While you might think that the impact is limited to the brain, the heart can also bear some of the damage of trauma, even years later. The stress that follows a traumatic event takes a toll on the heart. One study found that women who had experienced three or more traumatic events had an increased risk of heart disease due to abnormalities in their blood vessels. The types of trauma that triggered these health effects included being a survivor of abuse, losing a child, getting in a car accident, and experiencing a natural disaster. According to the American Heart Association, trauma experienced during childhood and adolescence can have lasting negative health effects, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The American Psychological Association recommends the following if you’re struggling to cope with trauma: Take care of yourself. The most important thing you can do after experiencing trauma is to make sure you’re taking care of your basic needs. Make sure that you’re getting enough to eat and eating healthy meals. Try to stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and get some physical activity if you’re able. Give yourself time to heal. Reach out to family and friends. Your loved ones may be able to help you process what you’ve been through or just be a shoulder to cry on. Seek treatment. Mental health professionals can help you get through the aftermath of a traumatic event and give you tools to help you cope. consider seeking counseling if you’re struggling to carry on or maintain relationships.


Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

Surprising Things That Lead to Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease risk factors | Ada

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