What increases my risk for coronary heart disease?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Your risk for coronary heart disease is a combination of hereditary and lifestyle factors. African-Americans and Latinos, men over 45, women over 55, and individuals with a family history of heart disease are at the greatest risk. Lifestyle factors include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol (also known as "bad cholesterol"), diabetes, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. The presence of multiple factors can compound and make your overall condition worse. For example, obesity can lead to diabetes and high blood pressure.

Some individuals develop coronary heart disease without any traditional risk factors. Scientists are researching whether elevated levels of some proteins and amino acids can indicate the presence of atherosclerosis, and thus be considered risk factors.

Sharine Forbes
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

The heart is one of the most important organs of the human body as it pumps blood throughout the body delivery much-needed nutrients to the essential systems. Being that the heart is such an important organ it must remain healthy over the entire lifespan of an individual. However, there are individuals who develop atherosclerosis, also known as coronary artery disease, which leads to a myocardial infarction.

Atherosclerosis describes the process by which the blood flow to the heart is greatly decreased by a blockage as the smooth stretchy lining inside the coronary arteries becomes clogged with plaque. This blockage in turn leads to the decrease of the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body. As this happen the levels of oxygen that the body demands in order to function become much greater then that which is being supplied. Therefore, the combination of clogged arteries along coupled restricted blood flow and the levels of oxygen lead to coronary artery disease. As the cardiac muscles cells are restricted of oxygen and begin decaying the rest of the body’s organs do not receive the oxygen they need in order to survive which in turn causes a myocardial infarction. 

A myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, can cause many life long changes to the body as heart valves are damaged. Additionally, the ventricles of the heart can develop a hole in between them causing incorrect blood flow thus overworking the heart and leading to difficulties in the lungs. A heart attack can even cause blood clots that can lead to a stroke. Additionally, the heart can become extremely weak as a result of the heart attack, thus causing life long disabilities that can affect an individual on a social and personal level.

Studies have shown that there are many culprits for the development of coronary artery disease such as Endothelial Dysfunction, Free Radicals, Blood LDL’s, Elastase, Glycation, Heat Shock Proteins and Insulin-like Growth factors. 

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Factors that increase your risk for heart disease include:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • High blood pressure
  • Low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Stress

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If you are a man under age 40 or a woman who has not yet gone through menopause, you probably do not have coronary artery disease (CAD) to any great extent. However, the likelihood increases as you age. The risk also is higher if you smoke; have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels; lead a sedentary lifestyle; eat an unhealthy diet; or have a family history of heart disease.

Your risk for coronary heart disease is increased by the following:

  • Tobacco use (the number 1 reversible risk factor in the country)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.