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Understand the well-known and unexpected heart risk factors: the key to heart health is managing the risks that are in your control.

Your cardiologist has probably repeated several times the importance of managing your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, your weight, diet and physical activity. These, along with smoking cessation, are considered controllable risk factors. And they deservedly get most of the attention.

"The most important thing you can do is take charge of your heart health," explains Cleveland Clinic cardiac surgeon Marc Gillinov, MD, co-author of Heart 411. "For starters, that means exercising, eating a healthy diet and quittingsmoking."

But research in recent years has shown that other heart risk factors may be found in some unexpected places. For examples, observational studies have shown that poor dental care is associated with heart disease. Likewise, multiple studies have shown that repeatedly getting a poor night's sleep may contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks.

And if you're a woman who experiences migraine headaches with aura, you may be at a higher risk for heart disease. Another health-related risk factor for heart disease is an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Grave's disease. That's because inflammation that accompanies those conditions can contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries.

Studies have also shown an association between air and noise pollution and higher heart disease risks.

Focus on controllable factors

But Dr. Gillinov warns against shifting your attention away from controllable risk factors and basic preventive behaviors to the latest study that implicates something new as a sign of heart disease risk.

"All of these risk factors are linked to heart disease, but we are still not sure they cause heart disease he says. "Even with all these new and interesting risk factors, the most important thing is to not forget the risk factors that we know can make a difference."


* Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, and be sure to include cardiovascular activities as well as resistance training.

* Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean or vegetable-based sources of protein. Limit or avoid foods with saturated fats, added sugars and high amounts of sodium.

* Follow through on all doctor appointments and scheduled screenings and blood work.

* Get at least seven hours of sleep per night, and talk with your doctor if you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep.

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Title Annotation:AWARENESS
Publication:Heart Advisor
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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