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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Risk Reduction

Risk factors are habits, traits or conditions that may increase a person's chance of developing atherosclerosis, a major cause of stroke, heart and vascular disease. Atherosclerosis is a slow process in which deposits of fat, cholesterol, and calcium build up inside the artery. Atherosclerosis cannot be cured. However, research shows that modifying your risk factors can prolong and improve the quality of your life. The key is to know your risk factors and to modify them. Talk with your health care providers to find ways to achieve this goal.

Risk factors for cardiac or vascular disease that cannot be changed include:

  • Family history of the onset of disease
    • Men, 55 years of age or younger
    • Women, 65 years of age or younger
  • Gender
    • Male
    • Post-menopausal female
  • The aging process

Risk factors that can be modified include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Obesity/Overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Stress reduction

Reducing your risk also means knowing the warning signs for heart attack and stroke.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes
  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath

Stroke or Mini-stroke (TIA: transient ischemic attack)

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body
  • Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye
  • Loss of speech, or trouble talking or understanding speech
  • Sudden, severe headaches with no apparent cause
  • Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or sudden falls, especially along with any of the previous symptoms

Heart Attack and Stroke are Medical Emergencies

Not all of these signs occur in every attack. If you notice one or more of the signs, do not wait. Call 911 and get medical help right away.

Contact

For more information regarding the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, please call 1-866-662-8467 or request a first time appointment online.

Last UpdateMarch 25, 2011
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