It is common knowledge that heart disease is one of the leading causes of death around the world and the number one cause of death in the United States. Obesity, smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise are well documented as major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
However, there are a number of other seemingly unrelated conditions that may represent hazards to cardiac health. The presence of these conditions (while not necessarily an indicator of actual heart disease), increases a person’s risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Here are eight hidden risk factors for CVD ca everyone should know.
Table of contents:
- Constant or unusual fatigue
- Gum disease
- Sleep deprivation
- Clotting disorders
- Low levels of vitamin D
- Sleep apnea
1. Constant or unusual fatigue
Constant or unusual fatigue can warn of a pending heart attack. Poor blood flow to the heart often results in severe fatigue or unexplained exhaustion. A person experiencing fatigue or exhaustion for no apparent reason symptoms should consult their physician immediately to determine the underlying cause of the problem.
Depression can also trigger heart disease. Those who suffer from depression often reduce their level of physical activity and indulge in comfort foods. The combination of inactivity and overeating results in weight gain and increased heart disease risk.
Untreated depression can contribute to and increase the severity of major risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. The good news is that most people with depression can be successfully treated with therapy and/or medication.
3. Gum disease
Gum disease/periodontal disease or disease of the connective tissue and bones supporting the teeth nearly doubles an individual’s risk of suffering a fatal heart attack or stroke. Gum disease increases the inflammatory process in the human body. Inflammation is a dangerous situation with the potential to damage blood vessels to and of the heart. This vascular damage can lead to blockage; the obvious result of which is a heart attack.
People with severe periodontal disease often display other major cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Gum disease is preventable and treatable. People suffering from it should seek evaluation and treatment immediately.
Psoriasis is another example of inflammation in one part of the body affecting other parts. Psoriasis is a chronic disease of the skin. Studies have indicated psoriasis is almost as big a risk factor for cardiovascular disease as smoking. The inflammation that causes/accompanies psoriasis can have a significant effect on the cardiovascular system as discussed in the paragraph above.
5. Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation appears to increase the inflammatory markers which correspond to an increase in the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease. People who suffer from a chronic lack of sleep also tend to have poorer mental and physical health than those who get adequate rest. Poorer overall health can stress the heart.
Research indicated that sleep-deprived subjects who slept just an additional hour each night reduced the risk of calcium buildup in the arteries of and the heart by over thirty percent. Calcium buildup in these articles is considered a reliable indicator of future heart disease.
6. Clotting disorders
The risk of clotting disorders is self-evident. Clots may cause blockage in the blood vessels or heart which ultimately lead to heart attack or stroke. Indicators of clotting disorders may include the development of blood clots in the legs, or areas of the skin exhibiting a purple discoloration.
People who have varicose veins, take birth control pills or are obese need to be especially vigilant for clotting disorders. Individuals taking long trips by automobile or airplane should make a point of standing occasionally to stretch and move their legs. This lessens the risk of developing clots in the lower extremities.
7. Low levels of vitamin D
Low levels of vitamin D increase the risk of heart attack and stroke nearly two times. Vitamin D deficiency has been identified as a potential causal factor of high blood pressure and chronic inflammation of the blood vessels (there we go with the inflammation again). Vitamin D can be increased by sun exposure (in moderation).
Drinking a glass of wine on occasion has also been shown to increase vitamin D levels. Wine has the additional benefit of raising HDL cholesterol and reducing heart disease-causing inflammation.
8. Sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a dangerous disorder that represents a major risk of heart attack or stroke. Sleep apnea is the interruption of breathing during sleep, a situation that can cause blood pressure to rise rapidly or spike. This can result in long-term damage to arteries. Sleep apnea has been linked to obesity and weight loss often corrects the problem.
Having these or other conditions do not doom a person to a life of cardiovascular disease, they are simply factors that increase the risk of future or present problems. Individuals displaying these factors should mention them to their physician and monitor them carefully, as many are treatable. It is impossible to eradicate all the risks to cardiovascular health, but with a little knowledge and vigilance, we can tilt the odds in our favor.