Heart disease is so prevalent—27.6 million American adults have it, and it’s the leading cause of death for both men and women—yet many people still don’t have a good grasp on how to protect themselves. Step one: You need to understand what, exactly, could be putting you in danger.
“It’s really important to identify at-risk people early so we can focus on prevention,” says Erin Michos, MD, associate director of preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease.
You’ve probably heard that getting older, having a family history of heart trouble, smoking, having high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure, and being obese can raise your chances of heart disease. But there are lesser-known risk factors, too—including a number of health conditions that might seem like they have little to do with the heart. Here’s a look at six that could spell trouble for your heart.
1. Diabetes and prediabetes
People with diabetes are at least twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as those who don’t have diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health. And when someone with diabetes has a heart attack, it tends to be more serious, probably because chronically elevated glucose levels can damage the blood vessels.
It’s not just full-blown diabetes that can lead to heart disease, though. Impaired glucose tolerance, or prediabetes—a condition in which glucose levels in the blood are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes—can also hurt your heart. Consider this extra incentive to stay physically active, quit smoking, and keep your weight down.