Everyone knows that heart disease is still the number one killer in Malaysia (1). Therefore, it is important to know its risk factors, in other words, health conditions or lifestyle behaviours that can contribute to heart disease.
Who is at risk?
People with the below health conditions are at a higher risk of getting heart disease:
1. Being overweight or obese
Excess fat accumulation in the body causes fat build up in the blood vessels. This burdens the heart as it needs to pump harder to circulate blood around the body, causing increased pressure and damage to the blood vessels. As a result, this causes the narrowing of blood vessels and thus, increasing the risk of a heart attack. (2,3)
2. Having high blood pressure
High blood pressure makes your heart and blood vessels work harder and less efficiently due to the increased workload. This damages the heart and leaves tears along the walls of the blood vessels, leaving room for plaque to build up which causes narrowing of the blood vessels, and thus, affecting heart function. (4,5)
3. Unhealthy cholesterol levels
Too much cholesterol in the body can cause plague build up in the blood vessels, and thus, compromising heart function and increasing the risk of heart diseases. (4,5)
4. Uncontrolled diabetes
High blood sugar levels, especially if not controlled, can damage blood vessels including those connecting to the heart. (4,5)
Chronic diseases like heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are a result of an unhealthy lifestyle and behaviour (4,6). Here are some lifestyle behaviours that can increase the risk of heart diseases:
5. Unhealthy eating habits
Unhealthy eating patterns are one of the main contributors to heart diseases. Most Malaysians love food and with Malaysia being a food paradise, often at times we can’t resist a few more extra bites and tend to overindulge in high fat and high sugary food. Eating too much salty food can also cause high blood pressure, and thus, increasing the risk of heart diseases.
6. Sitting too much
Besides dietary intake, physical inactivity and long hours of sitting time can also cause weight gain and increase the risk of chronic diseases.
7. Smoking and drinking alcohol
Tobacco and alcohol tend to increase blood pressure and plaque formation in the blood vessels. This can damage your heart and blood vessels.
- Department of Statistics Malaysia. Statistics on Causes of Death, Malaysia, 2021. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Statistics Malaysia; 2021.
- Powell-Wiley T, Poirier P, Burke L, Despres J, Gordon-Larsen P. Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. AHA Journal. 2021;143(21):984-1010.
- Obesity [Internet]. Bhf.org.uk. 2022 [cited 30 December 2022]. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/obesity
- Sharifi-Rad J, Rodrigues CF, Sharopov F, Docea AO, Can Karaca A, Sharifi-Rad M, et al. Diet, lifestyle and cardiovascular diseases: Linking pathophysiology to cardioprotective effects of natural bioactive compounds. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020;17(7):2326.
- Tune JD, Goodwill AG, Sassoon DJ, Mather KJ. Cardiovascular consequences of metabolic syndrome. Translational Research. 2017;183:57–70.
- Lagström H, Stenholm S, Akbaraly T, Pentti J, Vahtera J, Kivimäki M, et al. Diet quality as a predictor of cardiometabolic disease–free life expectancy: The Whitehall II Cohort Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2020;111(4):787–94.