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Risk factors for cardiovascular disease


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Cardiovascular disease is a term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.

It can narrow the arteries in the body, including the arteries to the heart. This is known as coronary heart disease.

We do not know the exact causes but there are things that can increase your risk of getting it. These are known as "risk factors".

It is very important to understand what those risks are, and to take steps to reduce them.

Read more about cardiovascular disease on the NHS website.

Risk factors

Risk factors are in two categories: non-modifiable and modifiable.

Non-modifiable risk factors

These are things that cannot be changed. It is important to be aware of them if they affect you. They include the following.

  • Age. The risk of cardiovascular disease increases with age.
  • Family history. If a member of your immediate family developed early onset cardiovascular disease (female relative less than 65 years old, male relative less than 55), you are at higher risk.
  • Ethnic origin. Research suggests that people of African-Caribbean and South Asian origin living in the UK may have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Sex (assigned at birth). Men have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease at a younger age, while women may have some hormonal protection until the onset of the menopause.

Modifiable risk factors

These are things that can be affected by changing our lifestyle or behaviour patterns, and by taking prescribed drugs. It is important to identify what your modifiable risk factors are so that you can take steps to reduce your risk. 

Changes to your lifestyle and behaviour 

  • Do not make too many changes at the same time. If you need to make more than one change, think about what the most important one is and make that one first.
  • Think about the change you are going to make and plan it carefully. If you do not succeed at first, think about what went wrong and try again when you are ready.
  • Think about how any changes will fit in with your daily routine and how they might affect other people. Are they realistic changes?
  • Tell friends, family and colleagues about the changes you intend to make, and ask for their support and encouragement. You could ask someone to help you make the change, if it helps.

Recording your changes

This table lists modifiable risk factors (factors you can change). It can help you to plan and record progress, including dates or appointments.

Download the risk factor table (PDF, 331KB)



Ref number: 3756/VER4

Date published: June 2020 | Review date: June 2023

© 2021 Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

A list of sources is available on request



Download the risk factor table

Download Risk factors for cardiovasular disease (PDF 331KB)

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Download Risk factors for cardiovasular disease (PDF 331KB)

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