At this point, everyone knows the basic risk factors for developing heart disease. Diabetes, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. With the factors a known quantity, the American Heart Association commissioned a study to look at the impacts of the risk factors across race and gender lines.

The new study, published in the journal Circulation, show that women and blacks endure a greater impact from the risk factors for heart disease. The new study looked at what is called the population attributable risk for the five major risk factors noted above.

Dr. Susan Cheng, a lead researcher on the study explained population attributable risk in a statement. “We’ve been targeting traditional risk factors in public health campaigns for many years. We wanted to take a look at how well we’ve been doing over time at keeping these risk factors from causing heart and vascular disease – both by preventing the risks from occurring and by minimizing their effects when they do occur.”

Women are especially hard hit by heart disease. While breast cancer kills 1 in 31 women is the U.S., heart disease claims 1 in 3. That makes it the number one killer of women according to the American Heart Association.

Out of the major risk factors, diabetes and high blood pressure played the biggest role in heart disease. Diabetes contributing to heart disease was twice as higher in women than men. It was twice the rate in blacks, when compared to whites. Blood pressure also impacted women to a greater extent than men.

One contribution that has gone down in recent years is smoking. Less people are smoking, so researchers saw the PAR drop. That doesn’t mean smoke ‘em if you got them, it is just a reduction in the smoking population.

Dr. Cheng stresses the smoking point. “In fact, for current smokers the risk of heart and vascular disease has actually gone up, possibly because remaining smokers tend to smoke more heavily or carry additional risk factors.”

So, what do you do if you have these risk factors? The normal mantra you’ve heard for decades. Stay active, lose weight, control your blood pressure, manage your blood sugar, quit smoking and eat healthy. Yeah, it means you’re going to have to give up fast food in favor of a salad.


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