Modern life offers many conveniences and comforts not dreamed of by our grandparents. But we have paid a price for all this in the form of increased hazards and risks. Probably the greatest dangers we face are the diseases of the cardiovascular system and their often fatal complications—heart attack and stroke. Hardly a day goes by that we don't read or hear about some public figure or acquaintance who has suffered a fatal heart attack or a stroke.
Although in the United States there has been a slow decline in the incidence rates over the past fifteen years, the death toll from heart attacks and strokes is still too high.
What do We Mean by "Risk Factors"?
When you drive while under the influence of alcohol the risk of accident increases. This means that your elevated blood alcohol level has become a risk factor. Another example: chronic tonsillitis in childhood may cause rheumatic heart disease, inflammation of the joints, or kidney disease. This makes infected tonsils a risk factor.
A risk factor thus is a potentially harmful condition that could trigger a specific disease or disability. People who have high risk factors are more likely to contract these diseases, and in a more serious form, than those who don't.
The high incidence of cardiovascular diseases has spurred an all-out search for their causes and the conditions that precipitate them. We know for a fact that more risk factors are found in people who have had heart attacks or strokes than in those who have not.
In recent years we have learned more and more about the nature of various risk factors and their effect on the cardiovascular system. Among them, harmful nutritional habits, specific metabolic disorders, blood vessel disease, and possibly emotional stress.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Abnormal fat metabolism:
a. High serum cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
b. High serum triglyceride (hypertriglyceridemia)
High serum uric acid level (hyperuricemia)