Health Topics

Am I At Risk for Cardiovascular Disease?

Non-modifiable risk factors are risk factors that cannot be changed, while modifiable risk factors can be modified, controlled or treated. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing cardiovascular disease. If you have a family history of cardiovascular disease or high cholesterol, it is even more important to decrease your other risk factors.

Non-modifiable risk factors

  • Increasing age
  • Male gender
  • Menopause
  • Family history
  • Race
  • Cardiovascular disease risk is higher in African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians, and some Asian-Americans.

Since you can’t change any of these risk factors, it is important to focus on the risk factors you can change.

Modifiable risk factors

You, along with support from your family and friends, can work to achieve the following goals to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you already have cardiovascular disease, you can follow these guidelines to help prevent its progression:

  1. Stop Smoking
    Smoking is the most preventable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Smokers have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than nonsmokers.
  2. Lower Your Total Cholesterol, LDL (Bad) Cholesterol, and Triglyceride Levels.
    Excessive lipids, especially in the form of LDL cholesterol, cause the build-up of fatty deposits within your arteries.
  3. Raise Your HDL (Good) Cholesterol
    HDL cholesterol takes the LDL (bad) cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver where it can be passed out of the body. High levels of HDL seem to protect against cardiovascular disease.
  4. Lower Your High Blood Pressure
    High blood pressure increases the workload of the heart and kidneys, increasing the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease. High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke.
  5. Control Diabetes
    People with diabetes have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease because diabetes increases other risk factors, such as high cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, lower HDL and high blood pressure.
  6. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
    Excess weight raises blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, lowers HDL cholesterol and increases the risk of diabetes.
  7. Exercise
    Exercising helps improve how well the heart pumps blood through your body. Activity and exercise also help reduce other risk factors by lowering blood pressure, lowering high cholesterol, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy body weight, helping you quit smoking and improving your blood sugar levels.
  8. Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet
    The old saying "you are what you eat," may be truer than ever - especially when it comes to cardiovascular disease.
    Four risk factors are related to diet:
    1. high blood pressure
    2. high blood cholesterol
    3. diabetes
    4. obesity

Contributing risk factors

  • Individual response to stress
    Some researchers have noticed a relationship between cardiovascular disease and stress. Learn to manage stress by practicing relaxation techniques.
  • Drinking too much alcohol
    Drinking too much alcohol can lead to increased blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. It is also linked to high triglycerides, irregular heartbeats, obesity and cancer.