10 Leading Risk Factors For Developing Cardiovascular Disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is one of the leading causes of death among adults all over the world. Although, cardiovascular disease is becoming the world’s most common disease; however, the power to keep an individual away from it lies in one’s own hands. Learning about the causes and risk factors for heart disease can help one avoid cardiovascular problems. A heart disease is usually very common and most of the times it is silent until it strikes. Hence, it’s important to identify various factors that can put you at a risk of suffering from a cardiovascular disease.

10 Leading Risk Factors for Developing Cardiovascular Disease

As per the American Heart Association, following are the top 10 intriguing risk factors that can lead to a heart disease:

#1. Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices

Unhealthy lifestyle choices play a major role in increasing the risk of you developing a cardiovascular or heart disease. If you have a sedentary lifestyle with negligible or not enough exercise or physical activity, it can immensely contribute to the development of an unhealthy heart and eventually a heart disease. Consumption of an unhealthy diet that is rich in sugary foods, trans fats, sodium is one of the leading risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. Unhealthy choices such as excessive drinking and smoking can lead to an obnoxious heart condition.

Being a part of a highly stressful environment and not learning as to how to manage stress can also result in a heart disease. If you already have an ailment like a high blood pressure or diabetes and you are not keeping the numbers in control then this can straight away push you towards developing a cardiovascular disease. Poor lifestyle choices are major risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.

#2. Weight and Waist Size

All the people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more are termed as obese. Obese people are likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Excess weight, strains your heart and worsens other significant risk factors for heart disease, such as cholesterol, triglycerides, high blood pressure and diabetes. Research says that even if you don’t have any of these diseases but you are obese, it can still profoundly impact your heart’s function and structure. The other thing is that if you have a lot of weight around your waist, it significantly puts you at a higher risk for heart disease. For a woman with a waist beyond 31.5 inches or 80 cm and for a man with a waist beyond 39 inches or 94 cm are typically at a higher risk of developing a cardiovascular ailment.

However, the good news in that with the adoption of proper diet and weight management techniques and significant physical activity, you can reduce weight and the risk of having a cardiovascular disease.

#3. High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is the fatty material found in the blood. In normal quantities it is beneficial for the human body. The good cholesterol- HDL must scale higher than 50 mg/dl in women and 40mg/dl in men. The LDL should measure lower than 130mg/dl in healthy adults. When the total amount of cholesterol increases in your body, it acts as a major risk factor that can lead to a cardiovascular or a heart disease. High cholesterol levels result in atheroma inside the artery walls. This prevents enough blood from reaching the heart and the other parts of the body. If at any point atheroma breaks off, it can result in a blood clot. This blocks the supply of blood from reaching the heart resulting in a heart attack or a stroke. People with high cholesterol levels are at increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease. If you have high cholesterol levels, you can always bring it down with regular exercise, and it is important to follow a diet that is low in trans-fat, saturated fats and cholesterol, make healthier lifestyle decisions and even taking doctor prescribed cholesterol medicines for reduce the risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

#4. Depression and Heart Disease

Depression is one of the most common contributing risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Studies suggest that people suffering from depression have a higher probability of developing a heart condition. Depression brings about a significant change in your body’s anatomy. Excess stress, consistent sad feeling or both increases your blood pressure. Other physiological changes in the body as a result of depression include elevated levels of glucose, C- reactive protein (CRP) and stress hormones. C- reactive protein is an inflammation marker of your body. Higher C- reactive protein levels can lead to heart disease. Various symptoms of depression, such as lack of motivation and flagging energy levels can de-motivate a person from making healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating healthy food, taking medications on time and getting optimum physical activity. All of these make a heart disease highly likely to occur in an individual. With timely intervention and professional help, depression can be completely cured and the risk of cardiovascular disease also comes down.

#5. Diabetes and Heart Disease

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases suggest that people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop a heart disease in comparison to others. Diabetes can cause heart attacks even at a young age; hence making diabetes a major and a leading risk factor for developing heart disease. A person with high blood glucose levels, who is also insulin resistant (Type 2 Diabetes), is likely to experience multiple heart attacks. The reason behind why diabetes is one of the leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease is the relationship between the blood vessel’s health and glucose levels. Uncontrolled glucose levels increase the amount of plaque that is formed within the blood vessel walls. This stops or hinders the blood flow to the heart and hence results into myocardial infarction.

If you are diabetic, then with the help of diabetes-friendly diet, low in sugar, fat, carbohydrates and rich in fiber and regular physical exercise, you can conveniently control your glucose levels and reduce the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease.

#6. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

High blood pressure is one of the top risk factors for developing a heart disease. The damage and the excess strain due to high blood pressure makes the coronary arteries narrow because of the ‘plaque buildup,’ which eventually results into atherosclerosis. Plaque eventually results in blood clots. This substantially increases the risk of a cardiovascular attack and other heart ailments. If blood pressure remains uncontrolled for a longer time period, a heart attack or a stroke is likely to take place. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, then regular monitoring of blood pressure, maintaining the optimum weight, good amount of physical activity, consumption of medicines at the right time, quitting alcohol and reduction in salt consumption can drastically improve your blood pressure levels and also reduce the risk of having a cardiovascular or a heart disease.

#7. Smoking Kills

If you happen to be a smoker, then the best thing that you can possibly do to save your heart is to quit smoking completely. Researchers suggest that smokers have double the risk of having a heart attack in comparison to someone who has never smoked. A cigarette’s smoke contains chemicals that substantially damage arteries and makes your heart work twice as hard. A smoker’s blood is highly likely to form a blood clot. This increases the risk of a stroke or a heart attack considerably. The good news is that even if you are a smoker, the minute you leave smoking, the risk of getting a heart ailment starts reducing almost immediately.

#8. Family History

If parents have a heart disease, then their children are likely to develop the same, especially if a parent developed it during an early age. Individuals with a strong family history of a cardiovascular disease are likely to develop one or more risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which eventually results into a heart disease. Just the way you cannot control your sex, age or race, you cannot control family’s medical history. What you should do is take healthy and informed decisions by regularly consulting your physician, which shall considerably reduce the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. Also, you can involve yourself into a disciplined exercise regime and prefer eating only balanced diet, as having a family history of heart disease greatly increases the risk for developing heart disease.

#9. Gender

The probability of developing a cardiovascular disease is more in men than in women. Being a man increases the risk for developing heart disease. Researchers suggest that women develop a heart disease at least 7 to 10 years later than men on an average. Although, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death amongst women, today and after menopause, the death rate of women due to a heart rate substantially increases, however, even then it is lower than that of men.

#10. Age

About 83% of the world population above the age of 65 years die due to a heart ailment each year. This percentage has been constantly increasing year after year. Increasing age is other leading risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease. Whether you are in your 20s or 60’s it is never too late to take corrective or preventive action against developing a heart disease. It is never too late to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.


Living a healthy lifestyle is the most effective way of keeping all the risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease at bay. So even if you possess one or more risk factors for heart disease, you must do all you can to lead a healthier and happier life. It is actually true when doctors say that prevention is better than cure. Remember, you are always, just a few changes away from making an influential difference to your cardiovascular health. Don’t be too late in bringing a positive change to your life.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 20, 2018

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