6 Lesser-Known Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Many of the common risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a sedentary lifestyle are known to us. But did you know there are certain lesser-known risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease and increase your chance of heart attack?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Evidence to date shows a link to an increased risk of coronary heart disease and PTSD.1 A common anxiety disorder affecting both veteran and nonveteran populations, PTSD can increase the risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Persons suffering from PTSD are advised to seek professional help to learn ways of managing their symptoms and health risks.
Stress of any kind is likely to elevate your heart rate and increase blood pressure. Work stress in particular can play a significant role in elevating your risk of heart disease. One 25-year study focused on job stress and effort-reward imbalance in the workplace. It showed that high job strain can lead to an increase of total blood cholesterol over time, and that effort-reward imbalance can result in an increase in body mass index.2
Try not to let workplace stress sabotage your best efforts of eating healthy and exercising regularly. Sticking to a heart-healthy meal plan and scheduling your workouts in your calendar are just a couple of ways to help you stay on track.
For even more tips, check out our blog post on 6 ways to stay healthy at work.
The importance of oral health has become more evident over recent years with countless studies proving an association to other diseases. Tooth loss and gum disease, causing bacteria and inflammation, both identify as risk factors for cardiovascular disease, especially in combination with another risk factor such as smoking.3
Practice good oral health by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing regularly, and visiting your dentist twice a year.
Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases
Scientists have found a link between autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and an increased risk of heart disease, especially coronary artery disease (CAD) and atherosclerosis. RA and other inflammatory conditions provide the right environment inside the body for certain risk factors to develop that can lead to heart disease.4
If you think you’re at risk, consult your doctor for the best course of treatment.
Poor quality of sleep has been linked to high blood pressure in many studies. In one large American sample, healthy subjects who were deprived of sleep showed a huge spike in blood pressure and neural activity. Subjects aged 32 to 59 who reported an average of five hours of sleep a night showed an increased risk for developing hypertension over time.5
Most healthy adults need an average of seven hours of sleep a night. To ensure you get enough sleep, start going to bed at the same time every night.
For even more tips, check out our blog post on 8 healthy tips for a good night’s sleep.
Endurance athletes like marathon runners, triathletes, and bicycle racers place themselves at a huge risk of damaging their heart muscles. Like any muscle, if you overtrain it, you run the risk of injury. Overtime this can lead to scarring and stiffening of the heart muscle, which can hypothetically cause arrhythmias and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Excessive exercise is defined by working your body to the extreme for more than one hour at a time.6
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous training per week.7
- Open Cardiovasc Med J. 2011. DOI:10.2174/1874192401105010164
- BMJ 2002;325:857
- Journal of Clinical Periodontology; January 2002. https://doi.org/10.1034/j.1600-051X.2001.280807.x
- The New England Journal of Medicine; 2005. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra043430
- Hypertension; 2006 https://doi.org/10.1161/01.HYP.0000217362.34748.e0
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2012.04.005
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- Blog Contributor