Although these factors are not actual causes of heart disease, they do increase a person's chances of developing it. Risk factors for heart disease include:
- Age (being a man 45 years or older, or a woman 55 or older)
- Being male
- Having high cholesterol levels, also known as hypercholesterolemia (see Cholesterol and Heart Disease)
- Having high blood pressure, also known as hypertension (see Effects of High Blood Pressure)
- Having diabetes (see Diabetes and Heart Disease)
- Being overweight or obese (see Obesity and Heart Disease; click BMI Calculator to find your ideal weight)
- Not exercising (see Heart Disease and Exercise)
- Cigarette smoking (see Smoking and Heart Disease)
- Having close relatives with heart disease at younger ages (diagnosed before age 55 in a father or brother; diagnosed before age 65 in a mother or sister).
(Click Heart Disease Risk to calculate your risk over the next 10 years.)
How Do You Know If You Have It?
Just because you have heart disease does not mean that you will experience symptoms. Plaque can be building up in your arteries with no symptoms. In fact, it usually takes many years of plaque buildup before symptoms appear. Symptoms generally appear when the coronary arteries have been sufficiently clogged to cause a reduction in blood flow to the heart. At this point, a person will experience symptoms from clogged arteries.
The most common symptoms are:
- Chest pain or discomfort (angina)
- Pain in one or both arms, the left shoulder, neck, jaw, or back
- Shortness of breath
- Faster heartbeats
- Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach)
- Abnormal heartbeats
- Feeling very tired.