Health Topics

Heart Health: Risk Factors of Heart Diseases and Conditions

Some heart diseases are hereditary, others are the result of lifestyle choices

Roderick MacDonald, BSc
January 24, 2024

Some heart diseases and blood circulation conditions are hereditary, or passed down from parent to child. Others are the result of lifestyle choices, and their risk can be reduced through changes to everyday habits.

Risk factors of heart diseases

Risk factors include:

  • diabetes
  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • a lack of exercise
  • high blood pressure
  • not eating enough vegetables and fruits
  • consuming too much saturated fats and/or trans fats and salt, common in processed foods
  • sleep apnea (trouble breathing during sleep)
  • a family history of heart diseases and conditions
  • obesity (being at an unhealthy weight as determined by your health care provider)

The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing a heart disease or condition that impacts your life.

Are you at risk for heart disease?

Everyone is different, but heart health risk increases in men over 45 years of age, or women over 55. Younger individuals may also be at higher risk if taking certain birth control medications.

People with lower incomes are more likely to develop heart diseases. This is because they are more susceptible to risk factors associated with social disadvantage, such as diabetes, smoking, and high blood pressure.

Some ethnic groups tend to have very high rates of heart disease. This is due to family history or cultural reasons, including diet and physical inactivity. These groups include Indigenous people in Canada and Canadians whose origins are African, Chinese, Hispanic, or South Asian.

Reducing your risk for heart conditions

You can reduce your risk for heart diseases and conditions by making changes to your lifestyle choices. This includes limiting alcohol, reducing stress, being physically active, eating nutritious food, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting (or staying away from) smoking. Especially if you have already had a heart attack or stroke, these changes can reduce the risk of having another.

Creating a plan with your health care provider or pharmacist is critical for managing your heart disease or condition, or avoiding early onset if you're at high risk or have a family history of heart disease.

Learn more from the Government of Canada.

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