Thursday, 21 Sep 2023

Five biggest risk factors for heart disease

Heart disease: Doctor explains how to reduce risk in 2021

In the UK, heart and circulatory disease are among the biggest causes of death accounting for around a quarter of fatalities every year.

Of these, coronary heart disease is the most common type, as well as the most common cause of heart attack.

As with any medical condition, there are factors that can increase your risk for heart disease.

Doctor Hannah Douglas, consultant cardiologist at London Bridge Hospital, spoke exclusively with about the five most common risk factors for heart disease.

“There are around 7.6 million people living with a heart or circulatory disease in the UK: 4 million men and 3.6 million women,” she explained.

“There are few things you can consider reducing your chances of having a heart disease.”

High blood pressure

Dr Douglas said: “High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease.

“It is a medical condition that happens when the pressure of the blood in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high.

“The high pressure, if not controlled, can affect your heart and other major organs of your body, including your kidneys and brain.

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“High blood pressure is often referred to as a ‘silent killer’ because it usually has no symptoms.

“The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to measure your blood pressure.

“You can lower your blood pressure with lifestyle changes or with medicine to reduce your risk for heart disease and heart attack. Learn more about blood pressure.”


“Eating an unhealthy diet that is high in salt, fat and sugars can lead to hardening of the arteries and increase your risk of a heart attack,” she said.

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“This is because fatty foods in particular contain an unhealthy type of cholesterol.

“If you take in more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, including those of the heart.

“This leads to narrowing of the arteries and can decrease the blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other parts of the body.”


She said: “Drinking too much alcohol can raise the blood pressure to unhealthy levels.

“Having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily raises blood pressure. Repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases in blood pressure.”

Inactive lifestyle

Dr Douglas said: “Not getting enough physical activity can lead to heart disease, even for people who have no other risk factors.

“It can also increase the likelihood of developing other heart disease risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

“Being inactive can lead to fatty material building up in your arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood to your organs), which can trigger heart disease.”


“Smoking is very harmful to your heart and lungs and increases the risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases as it increases the formation of plaque in blood vessels,” she added.

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