The 3 Key Risk Factors for Heart Disease

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About 600,000 Americans die of a heart attack every year—that’s one in every four deaths.To his family’s—and many fans’—dismay, James Gandolfini, who famously portrayed mob boss Tony Soprano in The Sopranos died of a  heart attack on Wednesday in Italy at the young age of 51. An autopsy will be conducted to determine more information about his cause of death. According to the latest media reports, his death came as quite a surprise to his family, friends, and fellow actors and producers. He leaves behind his current wife and their young daughter, as well as his teenage son from a previous marriage.

Unfortunately, Gandolfini’s case is not unique. About 600,000 Americans die of a heart attack every year—that’s one in every four deaths. Coronary heart disease alone costs the U.S. healthcare system over $108.9 billion a year. Unlike Gandolfini, however, the majority of men in the U.S. who have heart disease or die from heart disease are men in their 60s or 70s—so at the ripe age of 51, Gandolfini was quite young to die from a heart attack.

Unlike many other health conditions, heart disease can be prevented. There are three main risk factors for heart disease:

  • High blood pressure
  • High low-density lipoprotein “LDL” cholesterol
  • Smoking

There are also a number of other factors that put you more at risk of developing heart disease:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity (or being overweight)
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

Half of all Americans have at least one of the three key factors—so just treating even one of those factors could make a huge difference in the mortality rate of heart disease.

The problem is that the majority of Americans either don’t realize the severity of the risk factors for heart disease and just how much they contribute to your risk of developing heart disease. Who knows if Gandolfini himself was aware of these risk factors for heart disease?

You can prevent heart disease by making some key lifestyle changes. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Becoming physically active is vital to prevent heart disease, and a number of other conditions. If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, go for an hour walk every day. Even President Obama makes time for exercise.
  • Replace fast foods and large serving sizes with smaller,healthier portions. It’s okay to eat—and it’s okay to eat some sweets in moderation—but if you do so all the time, you aren’t doing your heart any favors. Choose whole grain options when possible, and add more fruits and vegetables to your every meal.
  • Stop smoking and drinking excessively. I think we all know that it’s detrimental to our health. If you’re addicted to these substances, then get help immediately, by joining a support group or even just distracting yourself every time you feel like you need a quick fix.

The truth is your health is in your hands. We can’t prevent every condition in the world, but it’s possible to manage health conditions, and even prevent heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, by taking better care of our bodies and our lives. Not only will you feel better and healthier, but you can hopefully avoid dying at a young age.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
“Heart disease facts,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site;, last accessed June 20, 2013.
“Mortality: Selected causes of death,” Health, United States, 2012, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;, last accessed June 20, 2013.