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Heart Disease

Exposure and Risk

Several factors can be involved in the increased risk for heart disease. These factors can include health, lifestyle, and environment. High levels of air pollution have been linked to decreases in lung function and increases in heart attacks. High levels of air pollution directly affect people with asthma and other types of lung or heart disease, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Quality Index. Overall air quality has improved in the last 20 years, but urban areas are still a concern. The elderly and children are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.

The level of environmental risk for heart attacks depends on several factors:

  • the amount of pollution in the air,
  • a person's exposure to the air pollution, and
  • overall health.

Other risks include conditions and behavioral factors, such as:

  • high blood cholesterol levels,
  • high blood pressure,
  • diabetes,
  • smoking,
  • exposure to tobacco smoke,
  • poor diet,
  • physical inactivity,
  • obesity, and
  • drinking too much alcohol.

Heart disease can run in a family. Genetic factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health conditions. However, people with a family history of heart disease likely share common environments and risk factors that may increase their risk.

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