Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease

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Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease

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Some risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD), such as your gender, age, and family history, cannot be changed. Other risk factors for CAD are related to lifestyle and often can be changed. Your chance of developing coronary artery disease increases with the number of risk factors you have.

Risk factors you can control

  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher)
  • High cholesterol
  • Blood sugar levels, if you have diabetes
  • Obesity (more than 120% of your ideal weight)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Personality factors and stress
  • Use of birth control pills if you also smoke and are older than 35 or if you also have a family history of atherosclerosis or blood-clotting disorders

Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity are all risk factors for coronary artery disease that can be modified and in some cases eliminated with lifestyle changes and medicines. Diabetes and obesity can sometimes be prevented when lifestyle changes are made early.

Risk factors you cannot control

  • Family history: One or more of your close relatives have or had early CAD.
  • Gender: Men generally develop CAD 10 years earlier than women, although by age 60, CAD becomes the leading cause of death in both genders.
  • Age: People older than 65 are more likely to have CAD.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
Last Revised August 23, 2010

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