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Risk Factors for Heart Disease that Every Healthcare Professional Should Know

By: Shannon Fern

Healthcare professionals are largely aware of the major risk factors for heart disease. Health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, and lifestyle choices such as smoking, low levels of physical activity and poor nutrition can all contribute to cardiovascular disease, and in severe cases, heart failure.

Changes in heart disease risk factors

While the risks these factors pose remains consistent, their prevalence among the American population has varied in recent years. According to 2012 data from the American Heart Association, while there have been improvements in the prevalence of high cholesterol and physical activity among American adults, the prevalence of hypertension and smoking has remained relatively consistent, and the prevalence of diabetes and percent of American adults who are overweight has worsened.

Source: http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/ahamah-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_434592.pdf

Lesser-known risk factors for heart disease

In recent years, the medical community has unearthed some lesser-known heart disease risk factors that can also contribute to the development of heart problems.


Sleeping too much

While it’s widely understood that too little sleep can contribute to stress and strain on the body’s essential functions, what many people don’t know is that too much sleep can be just as damaging. A 2003 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that individuals who slept nine or more hours a night had a 38 percent higher risk of coronary disease than those who slept just eight hours.

Source: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=215006

Irregular menstrual cycle

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a health problem that can cause an irregular menstrual cycle in women, can also place women at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Women with PCOS are at a greater risk of having high blood pressure and have high levels of LDL cholesterol. Heart attack risk is also four to seven times greater among these women than it is in women of the same age without PCOS.

Source: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.cfm#a

Sleep apnea

While it is still unclear whether there is a causal relationship between sleep apnea and heart disease, according to the National Sleep Foundation, there is good evidence that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between sleep apnea and hypertension.

Source: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/ask-the-expert/sleep-apnea-and-heart-disease


A 2010 study published in the journal Neurology found that migraine sufferers were more likely than individuals who don’t suffer from migraines to say that they had experienced a stroke or heart attack. Although the connection between migraines and cardiovascular disease is unclear, researchers note that one possibility may be that certain people are more susceptible to both migraines and heart disease.


Source: http://www.neurology.org/content/74/8/628

Training and certification resources

Health Ed Solutions (HES) offers convenient access to an advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification online guide and an ACLS recertification online guide for healthcare professionals and first responders who frequently respond to cardiac and related events. HES also offers online pediatric advanced life support (PALS) and basic life support (BLS) certification, as well as first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) training.