There are several factors that raise a person’s risk of developing coronary heart disease and its often life threatening complications. While some of these factors such as older age, male gender and genetic predisposition are non-modifiable, there are also several lifestyle factors that can be adjusted to reduce the risk of the coronary artery disease such as smoking and high blood pressure.
Some examples of the risk factors for coronary heart disease include:
Smoking – The greater a person’s number of pack years (packs per year), the greater their risk of developing coronary artery disease.
High blood cholesterol or dyslipidemia – In particular, high blood cholesterol levels combined with high levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) are associated with coronary artery disease risk. Higher levels of lipoprotein(a) or Lp(a) also raises the risk of coronary artery disease. Lp(a) is a combination of LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein a complex that is referred to as the ugly cholesterol since it raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Genetic factors determine the levels of Lp(a) and the size of the Lp(a) molecule itself.
High blood pressure – High blood pressure is associated with an increased risk for coronary artery disease, especially an increased systolic blood pressure.
High blood sugar – This is a particular problem among diabetes patients. A persistently uncontrolled high level of blood sugar is a risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease.
Blood coagulation factors – Individuals who consume more dietary fat tend to have higher levels of coagulation factor VII. In these individuals, clot breaking or fibrinolytic activity is reduced and this is a predisposing factor to atherosclerosis.
Type A personality – People with a type A personality are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease than any other personality types.
Lifestyle factors – Lifestyle factors that raise the risk of coronary artery disease include lack of exercise, stress, obesity, and a diet rich in saturated fats and low in antioxidants.
Older age – Men over the age of 60 years and women over the age of 65 years are at a greater risk of coronary artery disease
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc