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6 Risk Factors for Heart Disease That You Can Change

Understanding your risk for heart disease is the first step towards meaningful heart health improvement.
Healthcare provider taking a woman's blood pressure. There are many risk factors for heart disease that we have control over. Learn what steps you can take today to prevent heart disease and improve your heart health.

Almost half of Americans, about 47%, have at least one of the following three modifiable risk factors for heart disease:


  • High cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Smoking


Identifying your risk factors for heart disease can help you put together specific actionable steps to reduce or eliminate these risks. Regardless of your risk, even if you have already been diagnosed with heart disease, you still have a significant amount of control over your health.

What Increases My Risk for Coronary Artery Disease, the Most Common Form of Heart Disease?

There are a number of risk factors that increase your risk for heart disease - some that you can change (modifiable) and some that you cannot (non-modifiable).


Risk Factors That You Can't Change

  • Age - Risk for heart disease increases as we age

  • Gender – Men are at higher risk for heart disease, but risk increases for women after going through menopause

  • Family History –Your risk increases if you have a first-degree (parent or sibling) male relative that develops premature heart disease before age 55 or a first-degree female relative that develops heart disease before age 65.

  • Race – Risk is higher in certain groups, including African Americans, American Indians, Mexican Americans, native Hawaiians, and Asian Americans.


Risk Factors That You Can Change


  • Abnormal Cholesterol (Dyslipidemia) – Cholesterol is considered abnormal if:

    • LDL cholesterol is >130 mg/dL

    • HDL is <40 mg/dL

    • and/or total cholesterol is >200 mg/dL

    • or if you are on cholesterol-lowering medication

  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) – Elevated blood pressure is defined as:

    • Systolic blood pressure (top number) >130 mmHg

    • and/or diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) >80 mmHg

    • or if you are on blood pressure-lowering medication

  • Smoking – Your risk is elevated if you currently smoke, if you quit smoking within the last 6 months, or are exposed to secondhand smoke

  • Diabetes – All types of diabetes increases your risk, and is defined by:

    • Fasting blood glucose (sugar) >126 mg/dL

    • 2-hour glucose tolerance test glucose level >200 mg/dL

    • or HbA1C (A1C) >6.5%

  • Overweight/Obesity – Defined by a waist circumference:

    • Over 40 inches for men

    • Over 35 inches for women

  • Physical Inactivity – Defined as not regularly engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on at least 3 days a week



What Can I Do to Lower My Risk?


There is hope! One study found that women who engaged in healthy lifestyle behaviors decreased their chances of a heart attack by 92%. Recognize the risk factors that you cannot control and then hone in on the ones that you can.


Here is where you can start:


  • Your plate: Eating more nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes can greatly impact almost every modifiable risk factor.

  • Movement: Exercise is powerful medicine, and even choosing to take the steps or to wash dishes by hand can benefit the heart.

  • Positive emotions: Laughing, deep breathing, and practicing gratitude are effective strategies to boost mood and lower blood pressure.


Ready to take meaningful steps to take control of your risk factors once and for all? Sign up for the 6-week Heart & Diabetic Health: Restored program and implement the most effective heart health-restoring strategies today.

Do you know the symptoms of heart disease? Knowing These 9 Symptoms of Heart Disease Can Save Your Life.

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