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davidtrump

Risk factors

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Risk factors for coronary artery disease include:

  • Age. Simply getting older increases your risk of damaged and narrowed arteries.
  • Sex. Men are generally at greater risk of coronary artery disease. However, the risk for women increases after menopause.
  • Family history. A family history of heart disease is associated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease, especially if a close relative developed heart disease at an early age. Your risk is highest if your father or a brother was diagnosed with heart disease before age 55 or if your mother or a sister developed it before age 65.
  • Smoking. People who smoke have a significantly increased risk of heart disease. Exposing others to your secondhand smoke also increases their risk of coronary artery disease.
  • High blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of your arteries, narrowing the channel through which blood can flow.
  • High blood cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of formation of plaque and atherosclerosis. High cholesterol can be caused by a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as the "bad" cholesterol. A low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as the "good" cholesterol, can also contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease. Type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease share similar risk factors, such as obesity and high blood pressure.
  • Overweight or obesity. Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors.
  • Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise also is associated with coronary artery disease and some of its risk factors, as well.
  • High stress. Unrelieved stress in your life may damage your arteries as well as worsen other risk factors for coronary artery disease.
  • Unhealthy diet. Eating too much food that has high amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, salt and sugar can increase your risk of coronary artery disease.

Risk factors often occur in clusters and may build on one another, such as obesity leading to type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. When grouped together, certain risk factors put you at an even greater risk of coronary artery disease. For example, metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes elevated blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL, or "good," cholesterol, elevated insulin levels and excess body fat around the waist — increases the risk of coronary artery disease.

Sometimes coronary artery disease develops without any classic risk factors. Researchers are studying other possible factors, including:

  • Sleep apnea. This disorder causes you to repeatedly stop and start breathing while you're sleeping. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system, possibly leading to coronary artery disease.
  • High sensitivity C-reactive protein. High sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is a normal protein that appears in higher amounts when there's inflammation somewhere in your body. High hs-CRP levels may be a risk factor for heart disease. It's thought that as coronary arteries narrow, you'll have more hs-CRP in your blood.
  • High triglycerides. This is a type of fat (lipid) in your blood. High levels may raise the risk of coronary artery disease, especially for women.
  • Homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid your body uses to make protein and to build and maintain tissue. But high levels of homocysteine may increase your risk of coronary artery disease.
  • Preeclampsia. This condition that can develop in women during pregnancy causes high blood pressure and a higher amount of protein in urine. It can lead to a higher risk of heart disease later in life.
  • Alcohol use. Heavy alcohol use can lead to heart muscle damage. It can also worsen other risk factors of coronary artery disease.
  • Autoimmune diseases. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus (and other inflammatory rheumatologic conditions) have an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

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