Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Many different risk factors (conditions or lifestyle habits) can affect your chance of developing heart disease—including some you can, and some you can't control. It’s important to understand which risk factors affect you and what actions you can take to lower your risk of developing heart disease.
Risk Factors You CAN'T Control
- Age: As you age, your risk for heart disease increases. About 82% of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older.1
- Gender: Heart disease kills more women than men, although men have higher rates of being diagnosed with heart disease.2, 3
- Heredity (Including Race): A family history of heart disease increases your risk. Certain racial minorities (including African Americans and Hispanic Americans) have higher rates of heart disease risk factors such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes.1
Risk Factors You CAN Control
- Diabetes: Diabetes significantly increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, at least 65% of people with diabetes die from some form of heart or blood vessel disease.1
- Smoking: Smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than of nonsmokers. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day doubles your risk of having a heart attack.1
- High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): One in three adults living in the United States have high blood pressure.3 In Black Americans, the prevalence of high blood pressure is among the highest in the world.3
- High Cholesterol: Only 47.3% of adult Americans have healthy cholesterol levels.3 Too much cholesterol (a waxy, fat-like substance) can build up in blood vessels, slowing and possibly blocking blood flow.
- Obesity: Overall, 68% of adult Americans are overweight or obese.1 Black and Latino American women have a higher rate of obesity, which puts them at a higher risk of developing heart disease.1
- Inactivity: The risk of heart disease increases with physical inactivity. Women, Black Americans and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be inactive than White men.1
Assess & Reduce Your Risk
Since you can't do anything about your age, gender or heredity, it's even more important for you to manage the risk factors that can be changed. Find out if you're at risk and learn how to reduce your risk today.
Cardiovascular Health Conditions
The risk factors outlined above contribute to a number of cardiovascular health conditions, not just heart attacks. Learn what they are and get to know the various symptoms, treatment and prevention options for each from Heartistry, a patient education resource from Boston Scientific.
Download educational documents and presentations:
Read related health topic articles:
- New Year, New You: Top 6 Heart-Healthy Resolutions
- New Year, New You: How to Win at Losing Weight
- Take Control of Your Risk this February
- Tips for Minorities to Reduce Risk Factors for Heart Disease
- Down with High Blood Pressure
- Eat Better, Move More: Top Tips for Heart Health
- Don't Take a Vacation from Heart Health!
- Stress Busters: 4 Tips for a Happier Heart
- Stress Busters: 10 Healthy Habits
- We <3 The Great American Smokeout
- National Diabetes Month: Raise Awareness, Reduce Risk
- Cold Weather Tips for Your Heart
- Holiday Eating: How to Stay Heart-Healthy
- Assessing Your Risk of Heart Disease: The Role of Family History
Get more facts about heart disease risk factors and prevention from:
- American Heart Association
- iVillage Heart Health
- Million Hearts
- WebMD Heart Health Center
This information is not a substitute for medical care. Please consult a doctor or health care provider.
Know Your Numbers
Download this printable heart health card to take to your next doctor's appointment.Download your card
Live Better with Life's Simple 7
The American Heart Association has identified seven key components to ideal cardiovascular health. Increase your heart health by using their tips; start today!Follow Life's Simple 7
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