Cardiovascular disease - Risk factors 

Risk factors for cadiovascular disease 

Hypertension

High blood pressure has no symptoms, but if it's not treated it can damage the kidneys, heart and brain.

Media last reviewed: 22/11/2013

Next review due: 22/11/2015

Stop smoking

Help with quitting, including what your GP can do, local services and nicotine replacement therapies

There are nine main risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), including high blood pressure, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and being overweight or obese.

Many of the risk factors are linked, which means that if you have one of the risk factors you are also likely to have others.

The risk factors for CVD are discussed in more detail below.

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)  is by far the most important risk factor for CVD. Poorly controlled high blood pressure can damage your artery walls and increase your risk of developing a blood clot.
  • Smoking (or other tobacco use)  the toxins in tobacco can damage and narrow your coronary arteries, making you more vulnerable to coronary heart disease.
  • High blood cholesterol  can cause your arteries to narrow and increase your risk of developing a blood clot.
  • Diabetes  the high blood glucose (sugar) levels associated with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes can damage the arteries. Many people with type 2 diabetes are also overweight or obese.
  • Poor diet  a high fat diet can speed up the formation of fatty deposits inside your arteries, leading to both high blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. 
  • Lack of exercise  people who do not exercise regularly usually have higher cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, high stress levels and are also more likely to be overweight.
  • Being overweight or obese  being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure. People who are overweight or obese often have poor diets and do not exercise regularly. Read more about obesity.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption  can increase both your cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • Stress  stress can increase your blood pressure and the hormones associated with stress are thought to also increase your blood glucose levels.

Read more about preventing cardiovascular disease in adults and preventing cardiovascular disease in children

Page last reviewed: 03/07/2012

Next review due: 03/07/2014

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