Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), which can also be called Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), is when fatty substances (atheroma) build up in your coronary arteries and interrupt or block the blood flow stopping the heart from receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. If a part of the plaque build-up breaks off, it can block the blood and oxygen supply from the heart completely and cause a heart attack.


The symptoms can depend on the severity of the condition and develop slowly with time, although some experience no symptoms until they have a ‘silent’ heart attack. The main symptoms include:

  • Pain, pressure, tightness, heaviness in chest (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Pain spreading from chest to the arms and back

Risk factors

Some of the risk factors can be controlled and therefore help prevent the CHD from occurring. The factors that can be controlled include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, smoking, obesity, diabetes mellitus, alcohol consumption, stress, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity. However, there are some risk factors that cannot be controlled such as: age, family history, and gender.

Atherosclerotic lesions

Atherosclerosis is a disease that affects arteries and is characterised by the accumulation of fatty and fibrous elements in the large arteries, which can build up and cause a blockage over time resulting in CHD. 

Family history

Genetics play an important role when it comes to epidemiology and diseases. Some diseases can be inherited. Having a family history of heart and circulatory diseases can mean you are more likely to develop it too. 


High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means your blood pressure is consistently high (even when resting) and your heart is pumping blood with more force. When this happens the arteries, which normally are flexible to adjust to blood pressure changes, can become narrow and allow the atheroma to build up.

Diabetes mellitus (especially type 1)

Diabetes mellitus is a condition where your blood glucose levels are too high as the body is unable to process and use glucose as the body can not produce enough insulin. The excess glucose can cause damage to the arteries and increase the risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases. According to the American Heart Association, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes.


Being obese or overweight means that you have a higher level of body fat than that which is considered in the normal BMI range. This can cause the arteries to collect and build up fatty material, leading to interruption and eventually the blockage of blood flow. Obesity is a stand alone factor to increased mortality rates and also risk factor for several non-comunicable diseases.  


Various studies have shown that smokers are at higher risk of contracting heart and circulatory diseases. Carbon monoxide and nicotine contained in cigarettes increase the blood pressure, heart rate, risk of blood clots and myocardial infarction, stickiness of artery walls, risk of contracting and mortality rate from Coronary Heart Disease. According to the British and Irish Hypertension Society, the risk of developing CHD is 10 times greater for smokers than non-smokers in the age group <50.


Abnormal alcohol consumption (more than the recommended 14 units per week) can lead to increased blood pressure and overworking the heart and arteries, which over time can develop into the CHD.


Coronary Heart Disease is a condition that in many cases can be prevented by choosing a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Although there is awareness of the importance of healthy diet and physical exercise, CHD remains the cause of death for around one-third of all deaths in the age group 35 years and higher. It is important that you make regular changes to your lifestyle and consult your GP for health checkups, diagnosis and treatment.


  1. Hajar R. Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease: Historical Perspectives. Heart Views [Internet]. 2017;18(3):109. Available from: 
  2. Sanchis-Gomar F, Perez-Quilis C, Leischik R, Lucia A. Epidemiology of coronary heart disease and acute coronary syndrome. Annals of Translational Medicine [Internet]. 2016 Jul;4(13):256–6. Available from:
  3. Lusis AJ. Atherosclerosis. Nature [Internet]. 2000 Sep;407(6801):233–41. Available from: 
  4. British Heart Foundation. Effects of alcohol on your heart [Internet]. British Heart Foundation; 2018. Available from: 
  5. Emberson JR, Bennett DA. Effect of alcohol on risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: causality, bias, or a bit of both? Vascular Health and Risk Management [Internet]. 2006 Aug;2(3):239–49. Available from: 
  6. American Heart Association. Diabetes [Internet]. 2019. Available from: 

Weronika Konarska

Bachelor of Science - BS, Zoology/Animal Biology, Swansea University

Weronika is a Zoology student with a passion for One Health approach and tackling infectious diseases.
She has previous scientific writing experience including animal welfare and medical content. 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.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818