Take Control of Your Risk this February

American Heart Month aims to spread awareness of the prevalence of heart disease, the #1 killer in America.1 It's also the perfect opportunity to talk about the risk factors for developing a cardiovascular condition, as well as how to reduce your risk. 

At Close the Gap, we're especially interested in raising awareness for underserved patients, which includes women, Black Americans and Hispanic Americans. That said, no matter what your gender or race/ethnicity - there are many things you can do to lower your risk.

Heart Disease Risk Factors You CAN'T Control

  • Age — As you age, your risk for heart disease increases.2
  • Gender — Although more men have heart attacks, more women die of heart disease. 2
  • Heredity — A family history of heart disease. 2
  • Race — Race is one factor that affects a person’s likelihood of suffering a heart attack and chances of survival after a heart attack.3

Heart Disease Risk Factors You CAN Control

  • Diabetes — Each year in the U.S., about 15,000 people under the age of 20 are diagnosed with diabetes; most of the young Americans are either American Indian, Black, Asian, or Latino.1
  • Smoking — People who smoke are up to 6 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers.4
  • High Blood Pressure — One in three adults living in the United States have high blood pressure.1 In fact, the prevalence of high blood pressure in Black Americans is among the highest in the world.1
  • Obesity and Inactivity — The risk of heart disease increases with physical inactivity.1 Black and Latino American women have a higher rate of obesity, which puts them at a higher risk of developing heart disease.

5 Ways to Lower Your Risk 

  1. Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.4 People who smoke are up to 6 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers. If you smoke, QUIT!
  2. Aim for a healthy weight.4 If you don’t know your ideal weight, ask your doctor. The more overweight you are — the higher your risk of heart disease.
  3. Get moving.4 Make a commitment to be more physically active. Every day, aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as walking, dancing, light weight lifting, house cleaning, or gardening.
  4. Eat for heart health.4 Choose a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Be sure to include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
  5. Know your numbers.4 Ask your doctor to check your blood pressurecholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, triglycerides), and blood glucose. Work with your doctor to improve any numbers that are not normal.

Ask Your Doctor About Your Risk

Nothing replaces a discussion with your doctor or health care provider. Being honest about your risk factors will get you the most realistic assessment and help your doctor develop a plan to lower your overall risk. Bring this list of questions to your next doctor's appointment. 


1 American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics.2009 Update At-A-Glance. Page 17. Available at: www.americanheart.org

2 American Heart Association, Risk Factors and Coronary Heart Disease. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4726. Accessed Oct. 10, 2009

3 American Heart Association. Advocacy Department. Facts: Bridging the Gap: CVD Health Disparities. Available at: www.americanheart.org/yourthecure. Accessed April 30, 2010

4 National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute. The Heart Truth from Dr. Elizabeth Nabel. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/media-room/heart-truth-nabel.htm Accessed Oct. 8, 2009.

What's Your Risk?

Use our assessment tool to find out if you're at risk for developing heart disease.

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Who's at Risk?

Certain populations are at a greater risk for heart disease. 

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