Cardiovascular disease risk factors: Which ones affect you?

Cardiovascular disease risk factors: Which ones affect you?

 · 11 min read

Heart disease is the most common cause of mortality in both men and women. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) killed an estimated 17.9 million people in 2019, contributing to 32% of all mortality globally.

  • We can avoid most cardiovascular illnesses by addressing risk factors like smoking and lack of exercise.
  • More than three-quarters of cardiovascular disease fatalities occur in low- and middle-income nations.
  • Cardiovascular diseases accounted for 38% of deaths before age 70 in 2019.

Heart health risk factors: FAQs

  • What are the red flags to look out for concerning heart disease?

    Chest pain, tightness, or discomfort might be warning signs of heart disease. Even shortness of breath might be a sign of a heart attack. 

    Any unexpected limitation in your activities may be a symptom of heart disease. Other symptoms include dizziness and a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

  • What effect do genetics and family history have on the risk of heart disease?

    Genetics can influence your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other associated disorders. Furthermore, if you have a family history of heart disease, you're more likely to have shared surroundings and other risk factors.

    When inherited risk factors are paired with unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and eating an unhealthy diet, the risk of heart disease rises even more.

  • Do age and gender influence the risk of heart disease?

    Heart disease may strike at any age, although older people are at higher risk. In addition, while CVD risk factors are common in men and women, some may be more widespread in one sex or gender. For example, diabetes may be a more significant risk factor for some forms of CVD in women. 

    Women are more likely than males to develop cardiovascular disease at a later age. This delayed start in women is assumed to be related to hormonal changes post-menopause.

  • What Is the prevalence of heart disease in women?

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over 40, particularly after menopause. However, once a woman reaches 50, her risk of heart disease skyrockets

    The risk of heart disease is also increased in young women who have experienced early or surgical menopause, particularly when paired with other risk factors.

  • Do race and ethnicity have an impact on the risk of heart disease?

    Anyone may be affected by heart disease or stroke. However, some groups are more likely to have disorders that raise their risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Existing health issues, plus your lifestyle, age, and family history, may raise your risk of heart disease. These are known as risk factors.

Risk factors can be divided into two groups; modifiable and non-modifiable factors. Modifiable risk factors can be lowered or managed via changes in behaviour.

You can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by adopting specific lifestyle modifications. Smoking, high blood pressure, dietary intake,and exercise are a few examples.

Non-modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease are those that cannot be altered. These include, among other things, your person's age, race, and family history.

Cardiovascular disease is commonly referred to as "heart disease," although they are not the same thing. Heart disease is a catch-all phrase for illnesses that affect the heart muscle, structure, and function of the heart. 

In contrast, cardiovascular disease is the umbrella term for all heart conditions. However, not all cardiovascular disorders are heart ailments. A stroke, for example, affects blood veins in the brain but not the heart itself.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common cause of death among adults. Learning about the disease's origins and risk factors may help you prevent cardiac issues.

What are the causes of cardiovascular disease?

Plaque builds up in the arteries and blood vessels that flow to the heart, causing vascular disease. Coronary artery disease prevents vital nutrients and oxygen from reaching your heart.

Plaque is a waxy material composed of cholesterol, lipid molecules, and minerals. Plaque builds up over time when the inner lining of arteries is damaged by hypertension, cigarette smoking, or excessive cholesterol or triglycerides.

What are the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease?

Heart disease symptoms vary depending on the ailment and might include:

  • Chest discomfort & pain
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or arms 
  • Extremely rapid or slow heartbeat or palpitations
  • Lightheadedness, or faintness 
  • Swollen limbs

What are the medical risk factors for cardiovascular disease?

Being informed is vital when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Knowing the medical and behavioural heart disease risk factors might save your life. 

Let's take a look at the medical risk factors:

1. High blood pressure

High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It occurs when the blood pressure in your arteries and other blood vessels becomes too high.

High blood pressure, if not regulated, may harm your heart and other vital organs, including your brain and kidneys.

Up to five million people in the United Kingdom have untreated high blood pressure and are unaware that they are in danger. 

High blood pressure is sometimes described as a "silent killer" since it usually shows no symptoms. This is because the only way to determine if you have high blood pressure is to take a blood pressure reading.

You may lower your heart disease and heart attack risk by lowering your blood pressure via lifestyle modifications or medication.

2. Unhealthy cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by the liver or present in various meals. Your liver creates enough cholesterol to suit your body's needs, but we often get more from the foods we eat.

If we consume more cholesterol than our bodies can utilise, the additional cholesterol may accumulate in the artery walls, especially the heart. This causes artery constriction and may reduce blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other body organs.

LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is regarded as "bad" cholesterol because it may promote plaque accumulation in your arteries. In contrast, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is considered "good" cholesterol because greater levels give some protection against heart disease.

Statins are a class of medications that may help decrease blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

In most cases, there are no signs or symptoms of high blood cholesterol. Therefore, examining your cholesterol levels is the only way to determine whether you have high cholesterol. In addition, your doctor may do a simple blood test called a "lipid profile."

3. Diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes)

Diabetes is one of the seven key risk factors for CVD, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps transport glucose from the food you consume to your body's cells for energy. Unfortunately, if you have diabetes, your body either does not produce enough insulin or does not utilise insulin as effectively as it should.

Diabetes produces a buildup of blood sugar. As a result, people with diabetes are more likely to die from heart disease than those without diabetes.

Consult your doctor about strategies to avoid or manage diabetes, as well as how to address other risk factors.

4. Obesity

Obesity is an excess of body fat associated with higher "bad" cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lower "good" cholesterol levels. Obesity may cause high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Excess weight increases blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure while decreasing HDL cholesterol and increasing the risk of diabetes.

Discuss a strategy with your health care team to get your weight down to a healthy level and maintain a healthy weight.

5. Depression

According to research, those who are depressed have a greater risk of developing heart disease than the overall population.

Depression may cause various physiological changes that raise your chance of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. For example, excessive stress, chronic sadness, or both might increase your blood pressure.

In addition, depression raises your levels of a chemical called C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a biomarker for inflammation in the body. Higher-than-normal CRP levels have also been related to an increased risk of heart disease.

Depression may also cause a loss of interest in regular tasks. This includes everyday exercise, cleaning, socialising, and working. 

Consult your doctor if you feel you are depressed. Professional assistance may help you get back on track to excellent health and may lessen the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.

What actions raise the risk of heart disease?

Your way of living might put you at risk for heart disease. Let's take a look at other major risk factors:

1. Unhealthy diet

A high-fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol-rich diet has been linked to heart disease and associated disorders such as atherosclerosis (buildup of cholesterol and fats in your artery walls), angina (chest pain), and heart failure. In addition, consuming too much salt (sodium) in the diet might elevate your blood pressure.

2. Lack of exercise 

Inadequate physical activity may contribute to heart disease. It may also raise the likelihood of developing other risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. On the other hand, regular physical activity may reduce your chance of developing heart disease.

3. Excessive alcohol consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption may elevate blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease. It also raises triglyceride levels in the blood, a fatty molecule that increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.

4. Smoking tobacco 

Tobacco smoking raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack. In addition, cigarette smoking may harm the heart and blood arteries, increasing your chance of developing heart problems such as atherosclerosis and having a heart attack.

Nicotine causes blood pressure to rise. Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, limiting the quantity of oxygen your blood can transport. Even nonsmokers might be at risk for heart disease if exposed to secondhand smoke.

Improve your heart health 

Improve your health conditions by making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Healthy eating 
  • Regular exercise 
  • Keep a healthy weight according to your body mass index (BMI)
  • Reduce the amount of stress 
  • Quit smoking
  • Consume food and alcohol in moderation
  • Yearly physical examinations to identify anomalies and analyse risk factors
  • Consume vitamins as directed by your doctor
  • Understand the symptoms of a heart attack, heart disease, and stroke

One of the most effective strategies to avoid heart disease, heart attack, and stroke is to live a healthy lifestyle. So make heart disease prevention a priority.

Hassan Thwaini
Hassan Thwaini
Hassan joined Health Times in 2020 and is a qualified Clinical Pharmacist who has completed his Master's degree at the University of Sunderland. Since then he has not only pursued community and clinical pharmacy but has expanded to aid in humanitarian work across the less fortunate areas of the globe. Hassan is currently working as a medical writer and has been published on various nutritional websites, produced unique content for his university board, and carried out research for renowned surgeons.
The content on healthtimes.co.uk is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construedas professional medical advice or guidance. Should you need professional medical advice or guidance, you should consult with such a professional in their relevant field. Likewise, you should always seek professional medical advice before starting a diet, exercise regime or course of medication, or introducing or eliminating specific elements from your lifestyle. We strive to write accurate, genuine and helpful content, and all views and opinions expressed within this article are specifically the views of the author.