Know Your Risks
Risk factors for coronary artery disease include:
- Age. As we grow older, the risk of damaged and narrowed arteries increases.
- Gender. Men and women are equally at risk of coronary artery disease. However, women tend to develop coronary artery disease later.
- Family history. A family history of heart disease is associated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a close relative developed heart disease at an early age. Your risk is highest if your father or a brother was diagnosed with heart disease before age 55, or your mother or a sister developed it before age 65.
- Smoking. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis. In women who smoke at least 20 cigarettes a day, the incidence of heart attack is six times that of women who've never smoked. For men who smoke, the incidence is triple that of nonsmokers.
- High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries and changes to the ability of the ventricles to move blood effectively.
- High blood cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis.
- Diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of coronary artery disease. Both diabetes and heart disease share similar risk factors, such as obesity and high blood pressure. It is important to control blood glucose levels.
- Obesity. Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors.
- Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise also is associated with coronary artery disease and some of its risk factors, as well.
- High stress. Unrelieved stress in your life may damage your arteries as well as worsen other risk factors for coronary artery disease.