Some health conditions, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors, can put people at a higher risk for developing high blood pressure. However, everyone can take steps to lower their blood pressure.
Cardiovascular disease risk factors include:
- Age: Simply getting older increases the risk of damaged or narrowed arteries and weakened or thickened heart muscle, which contribute to cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Gender: Men are generally at greater risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the risk for women increases after menopause.
- Family history
- Smoking: Nicotine constricts blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis.
- Unhealthy diet: A diet that's high in fat, salt and cholesterol can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.
- High blood pressure: Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in hardening and thickening of the arteries, narrowing the vessels through which blood can flow.
- High blood cholesterol levels: High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of formation of plaques and atherosclerosis.
- Diabetes: Having a high level of glucose in the blood.
- Obesity: Check your weight with the Body Mass Index Calculator.
- Physical inactivity: not getting the recommended 150 minutes per week.
- High stress: Unrelieved stress may damage arteries as well as worsen other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
- Poor hygiene: Infrequent hand washing and other habits that help prevent viral or bacterial infections can put people at risk of heart infections, especially if they already have an underlying heart condition. Researchers also believe poor dental health may contribute to cardiovascular disease. Germs on the teeth and gums can travel from the mouth to the heart, potentially worsening cardiovascular disease.
Additional stroke risk factors include:
- Previous stroke or TIA
- High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the blood
- Use of birth control pills or other hormone therapy
Visit the National Cholesterol Education Program website and assess your 10-year risk of having a heart attack.
Assess the state of your heart-health by visiting the American Heart Association website and taking the My Life Check health assessment.