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Know Your Risk For Heart Disease: What To Watch Out For

Medically reviewed by Lauren Labrador, MD, FPCP, DPCC · Cardiology

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Sep 15, 2022

    Know Your Risk For Heart Disease: What To Watch Out For

    The most important behavioral risk factors for heart disease and stroke are an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, cigarette use, and problematic alcohol consumption. These risk factors can cause people to have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high blood lipid levels, and to be overweight or obese. What are the other risk factors of heart disease? Learn more here. 

    Risk Factors of Heart Disease: Medical Conditions

    High blood pressure, high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke, obesity, a poor diet, and inactivity are important risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

    High blood pressure

    When your blood pressure in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high, you have high blood pressure. If you don’t manage it, high blood pressure can injure your heart. It can also affect other important organs like your kidneys and brain. High blood pressure is also a major risk factor for heart disease.

    The only way to determine if you have high blood pressure is to measure it. You can lower your blood pressure with lifestyle changes or medication to lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack. High blood pressure is frequently referred to as a “silent killer” due to the fact that it typically has no symptoms. 

    High cholesterol

    Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like molecule produced by the liver or found in some foods. While the liver produces enough cholesterol to meet our needs, we frequently consume additional cholesterol-containing foods.

    If we consume more cholesterol than our bodies can utilize, the additional cholesterol may accumulate in the walls of our arteries, including those that supply our hearts, resulting in artery narrowing and a reduction in blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other organs.

    The only method to determine whether you have high blood cholesterol is to have your cholesterol evaluated. Your healthcare team can do a quick blood test called a “lipid profile” to determine your high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol), low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol, and triglycerides.


    The hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas, helps transfer glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells for energy. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should.

    Sugar builds up in the blood as a result of diabetes, and adults who have diabetes are more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes. Discuss with your doctor how to manage and prevent diabetes as well as other risk factors.


    Obesity, often known as excess body fat, is associated to higher levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides and lower levels of “good” cholesterol. It can also cause high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. 

    Metabolic Syndrome

    Metabolic syndrome, which pertains to a cluster of conditions that occur together, also increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. These conditions include  excess body fat around the waist, high blood sugar, increased blood pressure, and abnormal triglycerides or cholesterol levels. 

    Other Common Risk Factors

    Besides the mentioned medical conditions, please remember that lifestyle is also crucial. Smoking, diet, dietary supplements, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and postmenopausal hormone therapy are also considered risk factors. 

    How Does Family History and Genetics Impact the Risk of Heart Disease?

    How might genetics and family history affect the risk of heart disease? Heredity is the mechanism by which genes are used to transmit traits from one generation to the next, and genetic factors most likely have some influence in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other related disorders.

    However, it is also possible that those with a family history of heart disease share shared settings and other factors that may raise their risk. Genetic factors undoubtedly play some part in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other related illnesses.

    When harmful lifestyle habits like smoking and eating poorly mix with genetics, the risk of heart disease may increase even further.

    The Risk Factors of Heart Disease: Age and Sex

    Men are more prone than women to have coronary heart disease and tend to develop cardiovascular disease at a younger age. However, stroke is more common in older age groups and is more likely to affect women.

    The top cause of death for both men and women is heart disease, which can strike at any age but becomes more likely as you age. Heart attacks, strokes, coronary heart disease, and heart failure are all far more common in adults 65 and older than in younger people. For millions of elderly individuals, heart disease is a major cause of impairment, limiting their ability to do things and lowering their quality of life.

    While aging can lead to changes in the heart and blood vessels, normal aging does not significantly affect the heart rate (number of beats per minute) at rest. For instance, as you age, your heart can no longer beat as quickly during physical activity or stressful situations as it could when you were younger.

    The good news is that there are things you can do to delay, lower, possibly avoid, or reverse your risk. 

    The Risk Factors of Heart Disease: Race and Ethnicity

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death for most racial and ethnic groups in the United States, including African Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. For Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics, heart disease is second only to cancer. 

    Key Takeaways

    Can you manage the risk factors of heart disease?  Many cases of heart disease can be prevented, but most can’t be cured. In many cases, you can manage heart disease and live well; work closely with your medical team. Some heart conditions, such as arrhythmias and valve disorders, can be responsive to treatment and not require further management. On the other hand, coronary artery disease and heart failure are chronic diseases that you’ll need to manage for the rest of your life. Work with your doctor for the best treatment and healthcare plan.

    Learn more about Heart Disease here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Lauren Labrador, MD, FPCP, DPCC


    Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Sep 15, 2022

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