10 Risk Factors for Heart Disease


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Heart disease risk factors are more controllable than you think.
(MICHAEL FLIPPO/FOTOLIA)
Some risk factors for heart disease can be controlled, and some can't. According to the American Heart Association, these are the leading factors that put you at risk for coronary artery disease or a heart attack.

  • Age: More than 83% of people who die from coronary heart disease are 65 or older. Older women are more likely to die of heart attacks within a few weeks of the attack than older men.
  • Being male: Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women do, and they have attacks earlier in life. Even after menopause, when women's death rate from heart disease increases, it's not as great as men's.
  • Family history. Those with parents or close relatives with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • Race: Heart disease risk is higher among African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans compared to Caucasians.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking increases your risk of developing heart disease by two to four times.
  • High cholesterol: As blood cholesterol rises, so does risk of coronary heart disease.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing the heart to thicken and become stiffer. It also increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and congestive heart failure. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels, or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several times.

  • Sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
  • Excess weight: People who have excess body fat—especially if a lot of it is at the waist—are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors.
  • Diabetes: Having diabetes seriously increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. About three-quarters of people with diabetes die from some form of heart or blood vessel disease.

Last Updated: May 12, 2008

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