We have already covered some of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular health problems before (obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, poor diet, smoking, etc), but new research is discovering some interesting, and far less common factors that could be putting you at risk without realizing it. What are these less obvious risk factors?
1. Your Asthma Medication, if You Take it Daily
According to an article published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, asthma that requires daily medication is associated with a 60 percent higher risk of a heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease.
2. Your Heartburn Medication, if You’re Using PPIs.
According to recent study by Stanford University, taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)—such as Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid—was associated with a 16 to 21 percent higher risk of heart attack.
Curiously, the study did not find a similar link associated with another commonly used type of heartburn medication: H2 blockers—such as Tagamet, Pepcid and Zantac.
What’s the difference? They think that since PPIs can reduce the production of nitric oxide, an important molecule that helps maintain the inner linings of your blood vessels, they might also accelerate heart disease.
3. Your Migraines, if They Have an Aura
Migraine auras mean that your migraines are preceded by visual symptoms. According to a 2013 study by the Women’s Health, middle-aged and older women in particular were at an increased risk of heart attack if they had these kinds of migraines.
How big was the increased risk? According to researcher Tobias Kurth, M.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the French National Institute of Health, this symptom was found to be the second-strongest contributor to heart attack and stroke risk after high blood pressure.
4. Skipping Your Yearly Flu Vaccine
Recent research has shown that the yearly flu vaccine actually decreases your odds of having a heart attack by 50 percent in the year following the shot compared with those who don’t get the vaccine. Why? Antibodies that are produced after the vaccination activate molecular processes that protect and strengthen your cardiovascular system.
5. Your Weak Grip
According to research published in May 2015 by the Lancet, the force you exert when you squeeze something as firmly as possible in your hand is another predictor of heart attack risk. Scientists found that for every 5-kilogram (11-pound) decline in grip strength, there was a 7 percent higher risk of having a heart attack and 17 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death.
6. Resetting Your Clock for Daylight Saving Time
When you adjust your clock to accommodate for Daylight Saving Time, you’re also disturbing your circadian rhythm. According to research by the American College of Cardiology, there is a 25 percent increase in the number of heart attacks that occur on the Monday after we set our clocks forward by one hour compared with other Mondays during the year. In contrast, there is a 21 percent decrease in the number of heart attacks that occur on the Tuesday after we set our clocks back by one hour.
7. Your Drinking Habits
Research published in the journal Epidemiology found that the chances of having a heart attack increased 72 percent in the first hour after drinking alcohol. When you start drinking, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and your blood is more likely to clot. However, about 24 hours after consuming alcohol, the overall risk of heart attack decreases by 14 percent.
Basically, alcohol may provide a protective effect over time, but it also may cause a temporary spike in heart attack risk. It’s best to consume it in small but regular doses.
8. Your Temper
According to a 2014 study published in the European Heart Journal, patients who described their mood as “furious” or “enraged” were five time more likely to have a heart attack in the two hours after an intense bout of anger.
9. Traumatic Events (if you’re a woman)
According to research by the American Heart Association, traumatic life events—like the death of a loved one or a life-threatening illness—increased heart attack risk for middle-aged and older women by nearly 70 percent.
10. Your Painkillers
Commonly used over-the-counter and prescription painkillers known as NSAIDs (i.e. brands like Advil, Motrin, and Aleve) come with a warning about an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. According to several new studies by the FDA, the risks are greater than previously thought, and can increase even after using NSAIDs for a short time. The risk also increases with higher doses, so it’s recommended to always use the lowest viable does.
It’s important to understand these less common risk factors, so you know what to keep an eye out for. When you visit your doctor, ask them about any questions you may have. It’s important you understand your own individual risk factors and are able to plan accordingly. That’s what can set you on the path to effective, long-term cardiovascular health management.
Thank you for reading!
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