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Cardiac risk factors are conditions or behaviors that increase your chance of developing coronary atherosclerosis. They’re also factors that can make your existing heart disease worse. An important goal of your treatment is to reduce or eliminate these risk factors wherever possible.

Risk factors you cannot change

Some risk factors cannot be changed. However, it’s still important to be aware of them. Awareness gives you an opportunity to educate yourself and take measures to safeguard your health as much as possible.

  • Age
  • Sex (gender)
  • Family history (heredity and race)
  • Personal history

Risk factors you can change

Other risk factors are within your control. By making positive lifestyle changes and/or taking medications, you can reduce or eliminate the risk to your heart.

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes and high glucose levels
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excess weight

Other factors that may play a role

Researchers continually discover other factors-and groups of factors-that seem to relate to heart disease.

  • Alcohol
  • Birth control pills
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Homocysteine
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress