Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a condition affecting the heart and blood vessels and is the major cause of fatal diseases and disabilities. There are four main types of CVD, which includes coronary heart disease, strokes and transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), peripheral arterial disease and aortic disease.

Risk Factors

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), an estimated 17.9 million people died due to CVD in 2019. Almost 85% of which were mainly due to cardiac arrest and stroke. There are no exact causes for CVD; however, certain underlying conditions and factors can increase your chances of contracting the illness. Identifying the risk factors of CVD can allow you to take the necessary steps to decrease the chances of getting the disease or increasing CVD severity. 


Smoking is responsible for around 20,000 deaths from CVD. It can damage nearly every organ of your body, especially the heart and lungs. With a single puff, you breathe in over 7,000 chemicals that enter your bloodstream, causing a buildup of plaque in your arteries and major blood vessels. Plaque is a waxy substance containing cholesterol, calcium, fats, fibrin, and products of cellular waste.

Smoking for a long time can cause serious blockage leading to heart attack or other CVD. Quitting smoking is crucial to minimise your risks of getting a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular diseases.


The recommended limit of alcohol is 14 units per week. A unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to half a pint of normal-strength lager. It is important to cut down on alcohol to reduce your chances of developing CVD. The benefits of cutting down alcohol include improved mental health, improved sleep, an improved immune system, and, importantly, reduced blood pressure and reduced risk of your heart becoming enlarged.


Your diet plays a major role in keeping you healthy and decreasing your chances of developing serious diseases.

A high sodium intake increases the likelihood of having a high blood pressure, negatively impacting cardiovascular health. Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet and, if advised by a healthcare practitioner, swap sodium-containing salt with potassium salt for cooking.

Eating processed foods can increase your chances of developing CVD as they contain high levels of cholesterol, saturated fats and sugar. LDL (low-density lipoproteins), also known as “bad” cholesterol, and saturated fats tend to cause arterial plaques. Excess carbohydrates in processed foods can also lead to type-2 diabetes, a CVD risk factor.

Eating foods with HDL (high-density lipoproteins), known as “good” cholesterol, unsaturated fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals ensure a healthy heart and body. A nutrient-rich diet to avoid CVD includes nuts, pulses, leafy veggies, fresh fruits, and oily fish. Oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, are rich in HDL and good fats such as Omega-3. You can enjoy carbohydrates and meat in moderation as long as you maintain a healthy and nutrient-rich diet.

Physical Activity 

Physical activity is important for a healthy heart and mind. Regular exercise and an active lifestyle optimise your cardiovascular function by maximising the supply of fresh oxygen to your bloodstream. An active person has a low chance of high blood pressure and arterial narrowing or blockage. Daily physical activity helps you maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar level, lowers stress, promotes bone health, and improves mental well being.


Hydration plays a vital role in the proper functioning of your body. A well-hydrated body pumps blood into and out of the heart more efficiently, thus keeping your heart healthy. A lack of fluids can slow down your heart rate, which may lead to CVD. 

Water is essential for your body to function well. Make sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water to stay hydrated. 

Certain factors like climate, fluid intake, diet, and physical activity determine your body’s hydration. Be mindful of this and drink water accordingly.


Sleep is critical to your heart’s health. Sleep not only relaxes you but regulates important bodily functions as well. During sleep, your body’s blood pressure reduces.

 Lack of sleep for a long time is a predisposing factor for high blood pressure. Also, during sleep, your body releases hormones that regulate blood sugar, which is why improper sleep increases the risk of diabetes. Furthermore, sleeplessness can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Obesity, high blood pressure and weight gain can ultimately lead to CVD.


Weight gain is a risk factor for CVD. The calories you do not burn are stored in your body as fats. Excess fats eventually build up in your arteries and veins, leading to heart attack or other diseases.


The inadequate control of blood pressure in hypertensive patients is a major risk factor for CVD. Factors for hypertension include high-calorie intake, alcohol consumption, obesity, and excessive dietary sodium.

If you have high blood pressure, there is an excess strain on your blood vessels when the blood is passing through. Coupled with plaques narrowing the blood vessels, this increased pressure could be fatal. The best way to prevent hypertension is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. A low-sodium, balanced diet and regular exercise would help to decrease blood pressure, reducing the risk of CVD. 


With a healthy lifestyle, you have little to no risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you have or are likely to get CVD, you can reduce its symptoms by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Take good care of your diet and sleep, stay hydrated, and avoid smoking and processed foods. Remember to stay positive so that you avoid any stress.

Pavithra Saravanan

Pharmacist, MA Pharmacy, The Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G.R. Medical University, India
Pavithra Saravanan is a pharmaceutical professional and member in TOPRA. She completed her masters in pharmacy in Pharmaceutics department from The Tamilnadu Dr.M.G.R.Medical University, India. Pavithra has 2 years experience in Drug Regulatory Affairs, is equipped with knowledge in Clinical Data Management and Drug Safety and is currently working in the United Kingdom. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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