Old and new risk factors for heart diseaseBy Veita Bland, M.D. / April 28, 2023
The World Health Organization has labeled heart disease as the number one cause of premature death and disability in the general population. The numbers of people experiencing heart disease and ultimately a premature death due to this condition are on the rise.
The causes of heart disease have been elucidated for years. Some of these causes include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity and a lack of physical activity.
It is understood that there is still much to be done to get the aforementioned health conditions under control. So many people have refused to use medications such as statins to lower cholesterol; antihypertensives to control blood pressure; as well as medications to control diabetes. These medications are important and can help one achieve an improved state of heart health.
The use of patches to aid in smoking cessation and other lifestyle changes such as exercising more, eating more fruits and vegetables, and relinquishing the consumption of processed and fast foods can also be beneficial to one’s health and prevent of heart disease.
Studies continue to indicate that the incidence of heart disease is growing unabated. Is there something else out there that healthcare providers have missed that is causing this train to keep progressing? Have we been overlooking other reasons for heart disease?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. In an editorial published in the American Medical Journal of Medicine, other factors of heart disease such as inflammation, gout and autoimmune conditions were noted.
Inflammation is a complex biological response of the body tissues to harmful stimuli such as a pathogen, damaged cells, or irritants. It is a protective response involving immune cells, blood vessels and molecular mediators. Gout is also a heart disease risk factor, and it is not just located in a joint. Gout occurs all over the body, including the heart. People who have had a recent gout attack have an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
People who have developed autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and psoriasis are at increased risk for developing premature heart disease. Mothers who experience gestational diabetes, or eclampsia, delivering a low-birth-weight child, preterm delivery, early or surgical menopause are also at increased risk for premature cardiovascular disease.
This increased risk of heart disease has also been seen in people who experience early life trauma and in women who experience migraine headaches with an aura. In addition, transgendered individuals, who are pre-surgery have an increased risk of developing heart disease primarily due to the stress experienced in their lives.
Life stressors such as low social economic status have been associated with the development of premature heart disease. Air pollution and exposure to toxic metals are associated with heart disease. Working long hours and stress, drinking sugary drinks and drinks with artificial sweeteners are all believed to promote premature heart disease.
All of these new risk factors must be considered as we live our lives and strive to protect ourselves and our families from heart disease. Be aware. Eat balanced meals, exercise and see a healthcare provider regularly for check-ups. Life is precious, treat it as such.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.