15 Surprising Heart Disease Risk Factors You Didn’t Know

New research from the American Heart Association has found that nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have some form of cardiovascular disease. Yikes! But if you eat well and exercise regularly, there’s nothing to worry about right?

While you already know the main culprits behind heart disease—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a history of smoking—there are other unexpected risk factors that can have a big impact on your heart health. Here are 15 sneaky risk factors that you may not be aware of.

You live below the Mason-Dixon line

A 2016 study from the American Heart Association found that counties with the highest rate of death due to heart disease are concentrated in the South.

“Be aware that where you live dictates how long you live and the quality of life you have,” says Garth Graham, MD, MPH, cardiologist and president of the Aetna Foundation. “Your environment is important. It dictates your ability to access fresh fruits and vegetables and safe places to bike and walk and even the air you breathe.” And that can influence your heart health.

You’ve experienced a traumatic event

A sudden traumatic event like a death in the family or a car accident doesn’t just feel like your heart stops. It may actually cause heart trouble. “Big stress can lead to an acute surge in adrenaline, which causes the heart rate and blood pressure to go up and stay elevated,” says Jackie Eubany, MD, a cardiologist at Placentia-Linda Hospital in California.

A 2017 study found that in women who experienced three or more traumatic events in their lifetime, the inner lining of their blood vessels don’t function as well compared to women who experience fewer such events. These traumatic events can contribute to coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis.

If you have experienced these stressful events, tell your doctor so they can monitor your heart health.

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