Heart health

Saturday 05 December 2009, 00:22

Risk factors in coronary artery disease

Risk assessment for atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease

Risk factors in coronary artery disease

Being aware of the risk factors associated with atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease is the first step in preventing and managing these conditions. Extensive clinical and research studies have led to the identification of several factors (manageable or not) responsible for the increased risk of developing atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.


Unmanageable risk factors include age, gender and heredity. Many statistical studies have demonstrated that increasing age is associated with a higher risk of developing coronary artery disease: more than 80% of people who die of it are over 65 years of age. Moreover coronary artery disease and heart attacks are more likely to occur in men and affect men at an earlier age compared to women. Last, as regards heredity, it has been recognised that most people with a family history of coronary atherosclerosis are more likely to develop it.


Manageable risk factors are numerous, and sometimes it is difficult to determine the precise association between any single factor and coronary artery disease. Unlike unmanageable risk factors, that can’t be controlled by an individual, manageable or changeable risk factors can be modified, controlled or treated by changing lifestyle or taking medications.


They include tobacco smoke, physical inactivity, overweight, diabetes, high blood pressure (higher than 140/90) and high blood cholesterol. As regards the last risk factor, its influence is complex. As a general rule, people with total blood cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL are at an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis. But that’s not all. Increased risk is also associated with LDL cholesterol levels higher than 160 mg/dL, HDL cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dL and triglycerides levels above 150 mg/dL. When other risk factors are present (such as overweight or high blood pressure) the risk associated with high blood cholesterol increases even more.


Other factors are associated with increased risk of developing coronary atherosclerosis, although their significance has not been yet precisely determined. They are called contributing risk factors and include too much stress and too much alcohol drinking.


By Chiara De Carli

Category: Heart health

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