Possible Risk Factors Currently Being Studied
In recent years, several other possible risk factors for cardiovascular disease have been identified.
Elevated blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that may damage the lining of blood vessels, are associated with an increased risk of CVD. Men generally have higher homocysteine levels than women, as do individuals with diets low in folic acid, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-6. Most people can lower homocysteine levels easily by adopting a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Severe vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with heart dysfunction, independent of homocysteine levels.
LDL particles differ in size and density, and people with a high proportion of small, dense LDL particles a condition called LDL pattern B also appear to be at greater risk for CVD. Exercise, a low-fat diet, and certain lipid-lowering drugs may help lower CVD risk in people with LDL pattern B.
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Plaque A deposit of fatty (and other) substances TERMS on the inner wall of an artery.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) Heart disease caused by atherosclerosis in the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle; also called coronary artery disease (CAD).
Heart attack Damage to, or death of, heart muscle, resulting from a failure of the coronary arteries to deliver enough blood to the heart; also known as myocardial infarction (Ml).
Angina pectoris A condition in which the heart muscle does not receive enough blood, causing severe pain in the chest and often in the arm and shoulder.
Arrhythmia A change in the normal pattern of the heartbeat.
Sudden cardiac death A nontraumatic, unexpected death from sudden cardiac arrest, most often due to arrhythmia; in most instances, victims have underlying heart disease.
What risk factors do you have for cardiovascular disease?
Which ones are factors you have control over, and which are factors you can’t change? If you have risk factors you cannot change (such as a family history of CVD), were you aware that you can make lifestyle adjustments to reduce your risk? Do you think you will make them? Why or why not?
Several infectious agents, including Chlamydia pneumoniae, cytomegalovirus, and Helicobacter pylori, have also been identified as possible risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Infections may damage arteries and lead to chronic inflammation.
Certain CVD risk factors are often found in a cluster referred to as metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance syndrome. It is estimated that about 34% of the adult U.S. population has metabolic syndrome. As described in Chapter 6, symptoms of metabolic syndrome include abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose levels (Table 11.3). Metabolic syndrome significantly increases the risk of CVD more so in women than in men. Weight control, physical activity, and a diet rich in unsaturated fats and fiber are recommended for people with metabolic syndrome. Exercise is especially important because it increases insulin sensitivity even if it doesn’t produce weight loss.