Who is at risk?

There are a number of risk factors for atherosclerosis and heart disease. A risk factor is something that that increases your chance of getting a disease.

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
    Having high blood pressure puts strain on your heart that can lead to your blood vessels becoming damaged, making them more at risk of heart disease.
  • Smoking
    Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health.
  • High blood cholesterol
    High levels of cholesterol (a type of fatty substance) in the blood can build up in the walls of the coronary arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart and rest of the body.
  • Diabetes
    The increased levels of blood glucose that can occur in type 1 and type 2 diabetes can damage the coronary arteries, increasing the chances of heart disease developing.
  • Lack of exercise
    Not exercising regularly increases the chance of high blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels and overweight and obesity. These are all risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Being overweight or obese
    Research shows that being overweight or obese can raise your blood cholesterol levels, increase your blood pressure and increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Family history of heart disease
    You are considered to have a family history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) if your father or brother was under age 55 years when they were diagnosed with CVD, or your mother or sister was under age 65 years when they were diagnosed with CVD.
  • Ethnic background
    For the South Asian population (Bangladeshis, Indians and Pakistanis), and people with an African Caribbean background, CVD risk can be higher than for the rest of the UK population.
  • Age
    Your risk of developing heart disease increases with age.
  • Gender
    Men are more likely to develop heart disease earlier than women.

The more risk factors you have, the greater your personal risk. But there are many things you can do to reduce your overall risk and keep your heart healthy. It’s never too late to start!

Even though you can’t do anything to change some of these risk factors, there are a number of lifestyle behaviours that put you at increased risk that can be changed. The main ones are:

  • smoking
  • a poor diet
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • lack of physical activity

These factors contribute to the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, which are some of the strongest risk factors for heart disease.


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