Heart Disease Risk Factors

Risk factors are behaviors or conditions that increase your chance of developing a disease. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease are also often risk factors for other chronic diseases. Many risk factors are related. For example, if someone is not physically active, that person is more likely to become overweight and more likely to develop high blood pressure. The following are common risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease:

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease. If not controlled, high blood pressure can affect your heart and other major organs, including your kidneys and brain.

  • CDC High Blood Pressure - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's High Blood Pressure page includes information about high blood pressure, controlling blood pressure, risk factors, and prevention.
  • Million Hearts - Million Hearts® is a national initiative with an ambitious goal to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes. The Million Hearts® website includes information on undiagnosed hypertension, how to self-measure blood pressure, and other helpful high blood pressure-related topics.

Obesity puts people at risk for many chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and some cancers. Losing even a small amount of weight can reduce the risk for heart disease and improve quality of life.

  • NYSDOH Obesity Prevention - The NYSDOH Obesity Prevention page includes information on obesity in New York State, BMI screening tools, and describes efforts the NYSDOH is making towards preventing obesity in New York State.
  • CDC Overweight & Obesity - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Overweight & Obesity page includes information on childhood and adult overweight & obesity, strategies to prevent obesity, and strategies to make healthier food available to everyone.

Tobacco use increases the risk for heart disease and heart attack. Nicotine in cigarettes raises blood pressure, and carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry. Exposure to other people's secondhand smoke can increase the risk for heart disease even for nonsmokers. Quitting smoking can help prevent and control heart disease.

  • NYSDOH Tobacco Control Program - The NYSDOH Tobacco Control Program page includes information about tobacco use in New York State, NYS tobacco control policies, NYS Clean Indoor Air Act, and describes efforts the NYSDOH is making towards preventing tobacco use in New York State.
  • CDC Smoking & Tobacco Use - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Smoking & Tobacco Use page includes information on state and community resources related to tobacco control programs, quitting smoking, basic information about the dangers of tobacco use, and tobacco-related disparities.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance in the body. It is needed for normal body function, such as making hormones and vitamin D. When there is too much, it can build up in arteries causing heart disease and stroke. Certain foods contain cholesterol, but foods high in saturated and trans fat can also raise cholesterol levels in the body.

  • CDC Cholesterol - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Cholesterol page includes information about cholesterol, high cholesterol risk factors, prevention and management, statistics and maps, and other educational materials.
  • American Heart Association Cholesterol - The American Heart Association's Cholesterol page includes information about cholesterol, understanding your risk for high cholesterol, symptoms, diagnosis and monitoring of high cholesterol, prevention and treatment of high cholesterol, and cholesterol tools & resources.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not make any insulin or can't use the insulin it does make as well as it should. Without insulin, glucose remains in the blood stream and cannot be used for energy by the cells. Over time, having too much glucose in the blood can cause many health problems, including: heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and limb loss. The risk of death from heart disease for adults with diabetes is two to four times higher than adults who do not have diabetes.

  • NYSDOH Diabetes - The NYSDOH Diabetes page includes information about diabetes, risk factors and causes of diabetes, the symptoms of diabetes, diabetes complications, diabetes management, and diabetes information and resources.
  • CDC Diabetes - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Diabetes page includes information about the basics of diabetes, diabetes prevention and management, and what's new in diabetes news and research.

Many studies have shown the relationship between diet and cardiovascular disease. Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to heart disease and related conditions, such as atherosclerosis. Also, too much salt (sodium) in the diet can raise blood pressure levels. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can prevent the development of and reduce high blood pressure, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. When people eat more fruits and vegetables, their blood pressure goes down.

NYSDOH Nutrition - The NYSDOH Nutrition page includes information about state-wide programs that provide information and assistance to improve nutrition and overall health of New York State residents.

Food Standards Toolkits - The NYS Food Standard toolkits are evidence-based nutrition guidelines created to decrease the risk of diet-related chronic disease by improving the food environment. Use of the standards in various settings such as, workplaces and hospitals ensure employees, visitors, and patients have better access to healthy food by improving the nutritional content of food and beverages offered in their cafeterias, vending machines, and patient meals.

CDC Nutrition - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Nutrition page includes information on strategies and guidelines for states, communities, and parents to use to help improve nutrition, and resources and publications related to nutrition.

American Heart Association Healthy Eating – The American Heart Association's Healthy Eating page includes information on a heart healthy diet and provides resources on topics such as grocery shopping, reading nutrition facts labels, cooking healthy meals at home, and choosing healthy foods when eating out.

Lack of physical activity is a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The risk for cardiovascular disease associated with lack of physical activity is similar to that of cigarette smoking. Not getting enough physical activity can also increase the chances of having other conditions that are risk factors for cardiovascular disease including obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

CDC Physical Activity - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Physical Activity page includes information about physical activity, worksite physical activity, community strategies at improving physical activity, and resources and publications regarding physical activity.

American Heart Association Physical Activity – The American Heart Association's Physical Activity page includes information on walking and fitness basics as well as tips on getting active and staying motivated.