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What are the risk factors for coronary artery disease?

Some factors that affect whether a person develops coronary artery disease cannot be modified. They include advancing age, male sex, and a family history of early coronary artery disease (that is, having a close relative who developed the disease before age 50 to 55).

Other risk factors for coronary artery disease involve a person's lifestyle, which can be modified to reduce risk. These factors include high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking (the most important modifiable risk factor), a high-fat diet, physical inactivity, and obesity.

  • Age: The risk of heart disease increases with age.
  • Gender: At a younger age, males have a higher risk than females.
  • Family history: Premature atherosclerosis is often inherited.
  • Smoking: This is the number one worst risk factor for coronary disease. The risk of heart disease goes up with the number of cigarettes smoked daily.
  • High cholesterol: High levels of LDL, often referred to as "bad" cholesterol, and low levels of HDL ("good" cholesterol) increase the risks of coronary disease. LDL levels are reduced with a low fat, low cholesterol diet and/or medications to lower cholesterol (e.g., statin drugs). Stopping smoking, doing regular exercise, and consuming moderate amounts of alcohol can all increase HDL levels.
  • High triglycerides: Tryglycerides are another class of fats in the blood that rise after eating a meal. High triglycerides can also put one at risk for coronary disease. Triglycerides can be lowered with a low fat diet.
  • High blood pressure: This can be reduced with a low salt diet, weight loss or medications.
  • Diabetes: Whether it is treated with insulin, medications or diet, diabetes can raise a person's risk for heart disease. Women with diabetes are at particularly high risk with diabetes, and diabetes cancels out the protective effect of female hormones. A diabetic patient's risk for heart disease can be reduced by closely controlling his or her blood sugar levels.
  • Obesity: Fat centered on the waist, rather than the hips, is a risk factor.
  • Physical inactivity: Some studies show that a sedentary lifestyle is a risk for heart disease. Research also shows that regular exercise can be protective.
  • High blood homocysteine levels: People who inherit a decreased ability to metabolize the substance homocysteine have an increased risk of atherosclerosis. Increasing daily folic acid intake (e.g., one mg per day) can reduce homocysteine levels.
  • More information on coronary artery disease

    What is coronary artery disease? - Coronary artery disease is a heart disease condition that results when the coronary arteries are narrowed or occluded, caused by atherosclerotic deposits of fibrous and fatty tissue.
    What're the symptoms of coronary artery disease? - In most patients, the most common symptom of coronary artery disease is the type of chest pain called angina, or angina pectoris.
    What're the risk factors for coronary artery disease? - Risk factors of coronary artery disease include advancing age, male sex, and a family history of early coronary artery disease.
    How is coronary artery disease diagnosed? - The diagnosis of coronary artery disease requires a careful history, physical examination, and an electrocardiogram (ECG).
    What're the treatments for coronary artery disease? - Medical treatment for coronary artery disease generally includes medications, risk factor reduction, along with close follow-up with your health care team.
    How is coronary artery disease prevented? - Prevention of coronary artery disease centers on the modifiable risk factors: blood sugar, lipoprotein transport systems, obesity, homocysteine, hypertension.
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    All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005, health-cares.net, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005