Diseases such as stroke, transient ischemic stroke (TIA) or mini-stroke, heart attack, and peripheral arterial disease are a major cause of death and disability in Canada every year. Approximately 300,000 people are currently living with the long-term affects of stroke in Canada, while 700,000 people have a heart attack each year. All of these diseases are associated with atherothrombosis that may occur in one or several parts of the body.
If you are at risk of atherothrombosis, your goal should be to reduce your risk as much as possible. All risk factors have an effect on your health, but some are uncontrollable - for example, you can't do much about your age or a family history.
The list below describes how the controllable factors influence your health:
- diabetes: People with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for heart disease, which includes coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when the arteries that supply the heart with blood become blocked with plaques made up of fatty deposits and other materials. Proper treatment of diabetes, including keeping blood sugars in a recommended range, can help reduce the risk of CAD and atherothrombosis.
- high cholesterol: People with high levels of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) have a tendency to have more plaques on the interior of blood vessels. If left untreated, this disease can lead to heart attack, stroke, or coronary artery disease. Ask your doctor about medications and other available treatments for high cholesterol.
- obesity: Being overweight has many effects on a person's health. The cardiovascular system must work harder to pump blood through your body if you are overweight. As well, being overweight puts you at risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, gallstones, gout, heart attack, high blood pressure, certain types of arthritis, stroke, and mini-stroke, as well as other conditions.
- physical inactivity: A lack of regular exercise can lead to weight gain and chronic disease. The benefits of getting at least 60 minutes of regular exercise every day include stronger muscles, stronger bones, better heart and lung health, and improved flexibility.
- smoking cigarettes: People who smoke have 2 to 3 times the risk of having a heart attack that non-smokers have and are more likely to develop artherosclerosis than non-smokers. Quitting smoking significantly improves your health no matter how old you are or how long you have been smoking.
- stress: Removing sources of stress and learning ways to cope with stress is beneficial to your health. Research suggests that individuals under high stress levels may have a greater risk of blood clot formation. Participating in physical activity is one way to help reduce stress.
- unhealthy eating habits: Bad eating habits such as eating food high in fat and high in sugar can contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels, as well as other conditions. Make a habit of eating lower-calorie foods, including plenty of low-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables. Reduce the amount of fat and choose your carbohydrates wisely from whole-grain products.
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