Prevention and Disease Management
- About Heart and Vascular Care
- Diagnostic Testing
- Medical and Surgical Treatment
- Level One Heart Attack Program
- Level One Vascular Emergency Program
- Prevention and Disease Management
- Understanding Heart Disease
- Echoes for Athletes
- Innovations and Research
The fight against heart disease and stroke begins with knowing the risk factors and living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Several risk factors increase your chance of developing heart disease or having a heart attack or stroke. Many of these factors you can control, but some you cannot. Knowing both can save your life. Indiana University Health Cardiovascular is committed to providing you with resources and services to lower your risk or manage your disease.
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
- Pre-existing heart problems
- Age—In men, the risk increases after age 45; in women, the risk increases after age 55.
- Family history of early heart disease
Controllable Risk Factors
Risk factors multiply each other's effects, so it is very important to control those that can be modified. If you have one or more of these factors, see your health care provider to find out how to reduce your risk of having a first or repeat heart attack.
Smoking more than doubles your chance of developing coronary artery disease and it makes you up to six times more likely to have a heart attack. Smoking can be directly attributed to 20 percent of coronary artery disease deaths. Your risk decreases rapidly after quitting and can return to that of nonsmokers within three years. Learn more about the smoking cessation services the IU Health Tobacco Control Center offers.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Sometimes referred to as the "silent killer," high blood pressure often has no symptoms and can lead to heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. When blood moves through the body it presses against the artery walls. The measurement of this force is called blood pressure. The systolic reading (the top number) is the pressure of blood against the artery walls measured during a heartbeat. A diastolic reading (the bottom number) is the pressure measured between heartbeats. Your blood pressure is considered too high if it measures 140 over 90 or higher.
Blood cholesterol is a fatty substance that travels through the bloodstream. When blood cholesterol is high, it forms plaque. This plaque builds up within the artery walls, narrows the opening and restricts blood flow. Over time, this buildup can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke. Your cholesterol can be checked with a simple blood test. The results will reveal total cholesterol as well as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
LDL is sometimes referred to as "bad cholesterol" because it builds up in the artery walls. For people with heart disease, LDL cholesterol should be 100 or less. HDL is known as the "good cholesterol" because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. HDL cholesterol should be 35 or higher.
For information about cholesterol health screenings, see our health screenings listings. To participate in our Enhance Nutrition Class, call 317.962.8341. This one-hour class is offered once a month at IU Health Methodist Medical Tower and it encourages physical activity, healthy food choices, positive thinking and stress management. After charting your success for a month, you'll then meet individually with our registered dietician.
High Triglyceride Level
A high level of this fat, especially in association with a low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in the blood, appears to predict heart disease. Your triglyceride level is best determined by fasting for 12 hours before the blood test. The main steps in reducing an excessive blood triglyceride level is to cut down on the amount of sugar and refined starches in your diet, lose weight if you are obese, limit your alcohol intake and control diabetes.
Overweight and Obesity
If your body mass index (BMI) is over 30, you are at risk for a host of other coronary artery disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high levels of blood lipids. To learn about weight loss surgery, visit IU Health Bariatrics. View our weight loss guide if you'd like to determine your ideal body weight, appropriate calorie intake and weight loss tips.
Poor eating habits have become a way of life in America, placing millions of people at risk of heart disease and stroke. Indiana University Health Cardiovascular, in partnership with American Heart Association and American Health Network, will be tackling this nationwide problem by holding Cooking Demonstrations throughout Indianapolis to help Americans learn to buy, prepare and eat healthier foods. Visit Eating Healthy Day to learn when cooking demonstrations will be held.
Regular exercise can decrease your risk of heart attack by a third to a half. If you have been inactive for a long time, and are overweight or out of shape, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program. To learn more about exercise and weight control see our Fitness and Nutrition programs or IU Health's rehabilitation program.
You are three to seven times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease if you have diabetes. An aggressive approach to controlling diabetes and other risk factors may reduce your chances of cardiovascular complications. Visit IU Health Diabetes & Endocrinology for more information.
Stress, such as dealing with a difficult boss, contributes to heart disease by prompting the body to make fight-or-flight hormones, such as adrenaline, that constrict coronary arteries and promote blood clots. The good news is that you can help to control the stress in your life by eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep, exercising on a regular basis, and learning to solve problems. Many women have found relief by taking stress-management courses, as well.