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Heart Disease Risk Factors

Uncontrollable Risk Factors for Heart Disease

The risk factors you can do nothing about include:
 
  • Increasing age: The risk of coronary heart disease increases with age. Men ages 45 and older have an increased risk, as do women ages 55 and older. It is thought that female hormones help protect women from heart disease before menopause. After menopause, women have the condition as often as men do.
     
  • Family history of heart disease: If your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55, or if your mother or sister had one before age 65, you are more likely to get heart disease yourself.
     

Controllable Heart Disease Risk Factors

The risk factors for heart disease you can do something about include:
 
  • Physical inactivity: People with inactive lifestyles are at an increased risk for heart disease. Just 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity on most days helps reduce this risk.
     
  • Smoking: People who smoke cigarettes have the greatest chance of developing heart disease. People who smoke cigars or pipes seem to have greater-than-normal risk, but their risk is not as great as cigarette smokers'. Exposure to other people's smoke increases the risk as well -- even for nonsmokers. Quitting smoking helps reduce this.
     
  • Being overweight or obese: People who have too much body fat, especially around the waist, have an increased risk for heart disease. This includes women with waist measurements of more than 35 inches and men with waist measurements of more than 40 inches. People with body mass index (BMI) values of 25 or greater have an increased risk, too. Losing weight helps minimize the chances of developing heart disease.
(For more information, see Obesity and Heart Disease. Click BMI Calculator or BMI Chart to calculate your BMI.)
(Click Effects of High Blood Pressure for more information.)
  • High blood cholesterol: People with total blood cholesterol levels of 200 mg/dL or higher have a greater chance of developing coronary artery disease. People with no other heart disease risk factors who have low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) levels of 160 mg/dL or higher are more likely to develop heart disease. People with heart disease or diabetes who also have LDL levels of 100 mg/dL or higher have an increased risk, as are people with HDL (high density lipoprotein) levels of less than 40 mg/dL. In addition, people with triglyceride levels above 150 mg/dL may have a greater chance of developing heart disease.
(Click Cholesterol and Heart Disease for more information on high cholesterol as a heart disease risk factor.)
(Click Diabetes and Heart Disease for more information.)
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