Getting to the Heart of It: Risk Factors & Habits for Heart Disease

The health of your heart should be a top priority. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide accounting for more than 17.9 million deaths in 2015; over 800,000 in the US.1

There are many risk factors and modifiable lifestyle habits that could contribute to the increased probability of heart disease in your lifetime.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors:

  • Age
  • Race & Ethnicity
  • Other Genetic Factors

Modifiable Risk Factors:

  • Smoking
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Sedentary Living
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High Cholesterol

While smoking is a major risk factor and accounts for 20% of all deaths associated with heart disease, there are many other seemingly innocent habits that, over time, greatly increase the likelihood of developing a heart problem or condition.

Are any of these 10 Habits part of your daily routine?

1. You don’t floss your teeth. Without regular flossing, plaque accumulates on your teeth. Plaque build-up promotes bacteria which in turn triggers an inflammatory response throughout the body.  Scientists believe there is a strong link between gum and heart disease.2

2. You eat mindlessly. Unintentional eating turns into unwanted calories and excess body weight. Stored fat in the body is associated with several metabolic changes, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and altered cholesterol levels. Without any other known risk factors, being overweight increases the risk of heart disease by 28%. 3

3. You consume too much salt. Excess sodium is the leading cause of high blood pressure (1 in three Americans has high blood pressure) which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Keep salt intake at 2300 mg/day or less. 4

4. You indulge in excess screen time. Watching television, working at a computer or scrolling the phone contributes to a sedentary lifestyle. Even just one hour of sitting negatively affects fat and sugar levels in the blood and is associated with 14 percent increase in coronary artery calcification.5

Neon heart light at night

5, You delay regular checkups. Doctors and health care practitioners are trained to see the sign and recognize potential problems. Lifestyle and genetic factors contribute to heart disease and maintaining a regular dialogue with your doctor will help him/her help you mitigate problems before they arise or become worse. Make it a point to get an annual physical and attend all necessary pre-screening appointments.

6. You don’t eat fruits & vegetables.  Good nutrition is the first line of defense against all lifestyle related diseases. Vegetables and fruits provide necessary vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.6

7. You smoke cigarettes.  Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Smokers have a 70% higher death rate from coronary artery disease than do nonsmokers..7

8. You don’t manage your stress.  Unmanaged stress and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure - all common risk factors for heart disease.8

9. You consume more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day.  Alcohol is linked to high blood pressure, high blood fats and can lead to heart failure.9

10. You don’t get enough sleep. A good 8-hours sleep each night is essential for heart health. People who do not sleep enough are at in increased risk for cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. 10

The key to a life well lived is to be proactive and intentionally engage in habits that support heart health. If any of the above habits are part of your routine, consider ways to eliminate or replace them. When it comes to your heart and longevity what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.

In the next article in the series, we’ll explore good nutrition, daily movement, and perceived quality of life and how to incorporate them into a daily routine your heart will love.



Information presented by W(h)ealth should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Consult a doctor and/or medical professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.

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