Are You at Risk for Heart Disease? How to Know

By Leah Campbell
Reviewed by Daniel Lew, M.D.
April 04, 2022

We all know having heart disease can have serious consequences. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States—it kills about 655,000 Americans a year. There are certain risk factors associated with an increased likelihood for developing heart disease. Understanding and managing the risk factors is one of the best ways to protect yourself from succumbing to that fate.

Traditional Risk Factors for Heart Disease

There are three key risk factors known to increase the risk for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. According to the CDC, roughly half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors.

Barry Sears, Ph.D., a biochemist and researcher at the Inflammation Research Foundation, explains that these risk factors lead to unresolved, chronic, low-level inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body, including those blood vessels to your heart. That inflammation can cause plaques to build up, which can lead to poor blood flow and blood clots, and ultimately, heart attacks.

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