Heart disease is a function of family history, lifestyle, age and even ethnicity. That’s why it's so important to screen for heart disease: the sooner you catch it, the easier it is to treat. This is particularly important for older people, who may not be aware of the signs of a heart attack and what can be done to cure heart problems now.
There are some factors in heart disease that you can't control, but many you can. Here are 9 signs of heart attack risk you should take into account.
If a close relative (a parent or sibling) has suffered a heart attack, it could signal that you are at risk of heart attack symptoms. But did you know that your risk level differs, depending on the gender of the relative? You are considered at risk if your father or brother suffered a heart attack before they were 55, or your mother or sister had a heart attack before the age of 65. However, if both your parents suffered from heart disease when they were young, your risk increases.
Other existing health conditions
Other conditions, including hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol and diabetes, also increase your risk of heart disease. In Singapore, the average adult consumes about 341mg of cholesterol per day – that's 41mg more than the maximum recommended by Singapore's Health Promotion Board. To put that in perspective, a plate of char kway teow has 234mg of cholesterol – that's going to add up if you're eating at the hawker centre every day.
Men are at greater risk of heart disease than women, but this levels out when women reach menopause.
Indians are at a higher risk of heart disease than other races. One possible explanation is diet. Even though many Indians are vegetarians, their diets are quite heavy. Foods such as roti prata and curry contain high levels of processed carbohydrates and cream respectively.
A poor diet containing lots of salt and saturated fat increases your risk of heart disease, especially if you're also overweight.
It's not just linked to lung cancer; smoking puts you at a significantly higher risk of heart disease than non-smokers. The more you smoke, the higher your risk.
Physical inactivity, particularly when it leads to obesity, increases your risk of heart disease.
Small amounts of stress can keep you on your toes, but too much of it can adversely affect your heart.
We can't change our date of birth – but we can make sure we stay young at heart with regular health checks and a healthy lifestyle.
Firstly, you can make changes to the family diet and exercise routine, if necessary. Eat a high-fibre, low-fat diet (such as whole grains, nuts and olive oil) with plenty of fish, fruit and vegetables.
Try and get 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week. Encourage your parents to go for a brisk walk each day. Or get the whole family together for weekend outings to East Coast Park or MacRitchie Reservoir.
Get yourself and your parents screened to check their heart health. These days, heart disease doesn't automatically mean a huge operation: there are plenty of less invasive treatments available if you detect problems early.