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Contributing Factors

There are a number of contributing factors that can lead to heart issues. They range from high triglycerides to stress. Limiting and in some cases eliminating them can help.

High Triglycerides

Triglyceride is the chemical form in which most fats exist. High triglyceride levels often go with higher total and LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL levels. Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex, but most doctors use 85 to 250 mg/dl as the "normal" range. The Framingham Heart Study, the most thorough and long-lived investigation of heart disease ever undertaken, found that higher triglyceride levels are related directly to a high risk of heart attack in women only–not in men.

Diabetes

Diabetes damages the cardiovascular system by producing abnormalities in lipoproteins that may speed up atherosclerosis. It also affects cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Diabetes is the inability of the body to produce or respond to insulin properly. Insulin allows the body to use glucose (sugar). Diabetes can occur in childhood, but it appears more often in middle age and among overweight people. In a mild form, it can go undetected for many years. Besides increasing the risk of kidney disease, blindness, nerve and blood vessel damage, diabetes also seriously increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, more than 80 percent of people with diabetes die of some form of cardiovascular disease.

Obesity

People who are more than 30 percent overweight are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, even if they have no other risk factors. Between the ages of 30 and 55, the more overweight you are, the greater the risk for coronary heart disease. Seventy percent of women with coronary heart disease are obese. Obesity is related to low HDL cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Alcohol

The key to alcohol and your risk of heart disease is moderation. More than two drinks a day can rise blood pressure. In large amounts, alcohol can contribute to high triglycerides, cancer and disease of the liver, pancreas and nervous system. It also can cause heart failure. Constant drinking to excess and binge drinking can lead to stroke.

Stress

Stress is the bodily or mental tension that results from physical, chemical or emotional factors. Stress can refer to physical effort as well as mental anxiety. All people feel stress, but they feel it in different amounts and react to it in different ways. Though life would be dull without stress, too much over a long time can create health problems.

Oral Contraceptives

Millions of women take birth control pills with no complications. Yet anyone taking the pill should know that contraceptive pills can sometimes cause high blood pressure, abnormal blood fats, mild diabetes, blood clots in arteries or veins and may damage the artery walls. If a woman taking oral contraceptives has other risk factors, and especially if she smokes, her risk of developing blood clots and having a heart attack is increased, especially after age 35. Recent studies show that newer, low-dose oral contraceptives raise cardiovascular risk less than older versions did.

A Family History of Heart Attack

You cannot pick your family, but if your brothers, sisters, parents or grandparents have had early heart attacks, you may be at risk, too. It's possible that your family has a genetic condition that raises blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels. High blood pressure may run in the family. Of course, a family's lifestyle also may contribute to heart disease, if family members are overweight, smoke, eat large amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat or are physically inactive.

The good news is that you can help prevent a heart attack. The first step is to work with your doctor to evaluate the risk factors in your own life. Then, alter any lifestyle habits that increase your risk for heart disease.