Several other factors may play a role in the development and progression of heart disease.
Excessive drinking can raise blood pressure and cause heart failure. It can also contribute to obesity and cholesterol problems, both of which play a role in heart disease. However, moderate alcohol consumption seems to have a protective effect on your heart. Among other benefits, it appears to raise HDL cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends that people who drink should limit alcohol intake to 1 drink a day for women, and 1 or 2 drinks for men.
Birth Control Pills
Studies show that women who use high-dose oral contraceptives are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. This is because these pills can encourage the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels. Using birth control pills may also worsen the effects of major risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, and excess weight. Stopping birth control pills reduces these risks.
C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein in the body. CRP levels increase when blood vessels are inflamed. Researchers have found that blood levels of CRP are elevated for as many as 6-8 years before a first heart attack or stroke. For this reason, many healthcare providers monitor CRP in their patients’ blood with a high-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP) test. Patients with elevated CRP can begin an early, aggressive program of heart disease prevention.
Homocysteine is a normal byproduct of the breakdown of protein found in dairy products and meat. Studies suggest that elevated levels of homocysteine put you at risk for blood clots and atherosclerosis. Since folic acid, B6, and B12 help reduce homocysteine, many healthcare providers recommend eating a diet rich in these vitamins. Providers may also recommend taking vitamins to get these nutrients.
Also called syndrome X, metabolic syndrome is really a cluster of factors that together have been shown to coincide with heart risk. These factors are a large waist, high triglyceride levels, low HDL, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood glucose. Weight loss, exercise, and a heart-healthy diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates are often prescribed to help treat metabolic syndrome.
Research suggests links between heart disease and sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea stop breathing during sleep and wake often during the night to catch their breath. Often, people with sleep apnea don’t know they have this condition. After a sleep apnea diagnosis, simple strategies or special breathing equipment can keep airways open during sleep to minimize cardiac risk.
Although the connection has proven difficult to understand, many scientists have noted a relationship between stress and heart disease risk. For this reason, most cardiac rehabilitation programs teach stress management to heart patients.