Heart disease and stroke often result from a narrowing of the blood vessels. This narrowing can
severely reduce or even stop blood flow to important organs like the heart or brain.
Blood carries oxygen and important nutrients to cells in the body. Without oxygen, heart muscle
cells or brain cells begin to die. The patient can suffer permanent disability, and even death.
Atherosclerosis (ath'er-o-skleh-RO'sis) is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Atherosclerosis
occurs when cholesterol and other deposits build up on the inner walls of blood vessels. Over time,
this buildup narrows blood vessel openings, limiting the flow of blood and oxygen.
Who's At Risk?
Having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes will increase your risk of having a heart attack
or stroke. These risk factors tend to run in families. That's why it's so important to know your family medical history.
You may be at risk if you have a close relative (grandparent, parent, or sibling) who has had a heart attack or
stroke before age 55. You may also be at risk if high blood pressure or high cholesterol run in your family
Reducing The Risk
You can reduce your risk by maintaining low cholesterol and blood pressure. The best way to lower both
your cholesterol and your blood pressure is to avoid smoking tobacco. Maintaining
a healthy body weight, participating in regular physical activity, and eating foods low in fat and cholesterol
will also reduce your risk.
If you think you may be at risk for developing a cardiovascular disease, have your blood pressure and
cholesterol levels checked regularly by a doctor.