Myths vs. Facts: Which Heart Disease Risk Factors Can You Control?

November 11, 2021
Which Heart Disease Risk Factors Can You Control?

Are you wondering how much influence you have over your heart health?

When it comes to heart disease, women need to pay attention. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women. But there's good news. About 90% of heart disease risk factors are under your control.

That means changes you make to your lifestyle and habits can have a positive effect on your heart health. Of course, there are still some risk factors out of your control, but with so many controllable risk factors, the odds are in your favor that you can reduce your overall risk.

There are almost 10 heart disease risk factors under my control.

  • Fact: You can do something about 9 of the primary risk factors for heart disease. These include controlling your cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and weight, as well as not smoking, reducing stress, exercising regularly, improving your diet and limiting alcohol.

There are still some risk factors I can't do anything about.

  • Fact: Not every risk factor for heart disease is under your control, although you can do something about most of them. Uncontrollable risk factors include older age, being male or a postmenopausal woman, having a family history of heart disease and race (African-Americans, American Indians and Hispanic Americans are at an increased risk).

If I'm a woman, I don't really have to worry about heart disease risks as much as men do.

  • Myth: While men are at a higher risk for heart disease than women up until women reach menopause, women still have plenty to worry about no matter what their age. Heart disease is the number one killer of women but many women don’t think about heart disease as something to be concerned about. And many doctors don’t address heart disease risks with women in the same way as they do with men. Whether you are a man or a woman, the sooner you take action to reduce risk factors for heart disease, the better.

I'm already in my 40's, 50's or 60's so it's too late for me to change my heart disease risk.

  • Myth: It's never too late to improve your health and lower your heart disease risk. Every step you take to reduce your risk helps. No matter what your age, making lifestyle changes such as exercising more, eating healthy, losing weight, quitting smoking or reducing stress makes a difference.

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Date Last Reviewed: February 19, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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