By the time they reach adulthood, most people have heard about heart disease. After all, someone suffers a heart attack every 40 seconds in the United States, and a person dies from heart disease every 60 seconds, making it the country’s leading cause of death for both men and women.
So it’s pretty safe to say that most people know at least a little something about it.

But what many don’t know is that researchers have identified some surprising risk factors, and they go well beyond those that are most commonly known–smoking, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, and troubling cholesterol numbers.

Here’s a look at three surprising risk factors and what you can do to address them.

1. Over-the-Counter Cold and Flu Medicines
There’s a reason it’s called a “common cold.” Each year, adults have an average of two or three of them a year, and children have even more, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

They can make you feel miserable, which is why people tend to turn to over-the-counter medications for relief. And while the medicine may help with the symptoms, they can also apparently hurt your heart–especially if you already have cardiovascular disease.

According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, over-the-counter cold and flu medications that include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and decongestants have been shown to be associated with an increase for developing a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and other serious cardiovascular concerns.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter cold medicine.

2. Stress
Heart disease is known as the “silent killer,” and stress is probably equally as insidious as a risk factor.

That’s because research hasn’t shown that stress is a primary cause of heart disease, but experts at the American Heart Association say that it can lead people to partake in behaviors that increase their risk–smoking, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, overeating, and a lack of physical activity.

The Association says more research is needed to determine exactly how stress contributes to heart disease. In the meantime, it’s important to manage stress so it doesn’t lead to behaviors that are known risk factors.

3. Exposure to Lead
It’s commonly known that exposure to lead isn’t good for people. The heavy metal that’s entirely too common in our modern world can build up in bodies and cause health problems that range from mild to serious–irritability, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, seizures, and even death.

It can also cause heart disease.

Last year, a study published in Lancet Public Health showed that there is a link between lead exposure and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease in adults.

People have known for a long time that lead can cause serious health problems, so it’s not as common in communities as it used to be. However, there’s still a lot of it out there, in homes that were built before 1978 (the last time lead-based paint was sold), in the air, in the soil, and even in some products.

The key is to be aware of how you might be coming into contact with lead–and then try to limit your exposure.

Reduce Your Risk
It’s true that heart disease has a lot of risk factors. But it’s also true that many cases of the condition are preventable. The first step is knowing the risk factors. The second is committing to a healthy lifestyle. For more information about both, give us a call today.