American Heart Month is a good time to focus on the risks that contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. Coronary heart disease, angina, heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes fall under the category of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.   

So, let’s take a look at some of the risk factors for heart disease.

Family History

Learning more about your family’s medical history can shed light on your level of risk for cardiovascular disease. Although this risk is not modifiable, it does help to know if any of your first-degree relatives had heart disease or a stroke. Genetics also play a role in the development of high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels—placing you at a higher risk for heart disease and strokes.

Physical Inactivity

It has been estimated that 60% of the global population does not get enough physical activity. Being more active helps to control your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight. You can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by doing at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.

Tobacco Use

Smoking has long been linked to heart disease and cancer. Smoking damages the lining of the blood vessels, leads to increased fat deposits in the arteries, can increase clotting, and places you at risk for coronary artery spasms. Women who smoke are at a higher risk for heart attacks than men who smoke.


Making heart-healthy changes to your diet can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Diets that are low in saturated fats, combined with plenty of fruits and vegetables, can reduce your risk for a major cardiac event.


High blood pressure is the single highest risk factor for stroke. Having high blood pressure stresses your blood vessels, and can lead to clots or weak areas which can rupture. It is important to treat high blood pressures early with the use of dietary modifications, a reduction in salt intake, and taking blood pressure reducing medications.

The good news is that heart disease can be prevented when we make healthier choices. Take the time to commit to small lifestyle changes and give yourself the gift of heart health in 2018. You owe it to yourself.