6 Risk Factors for Heart Disease You Can Change

Your heart is one of the most important organs. It pumps blood throughout your whole body, supplies oxygen and nutrients to your other organs and tissues, and removes waste products like carbon dioxide. Medical conditions that make it difficult for your heart to do its job are collectively known as heart disease

At NJ Cardiovascular Institute, Dr. Kunal Patel is a highly experienced, board-certified cardiologist who helps you take good care of your heart. Dr. Patel uses a preventive approach to help you improve your heart health, as well as avoid or manage conditions like heart disease. Here’s what our team would like you to know about the nature of heart disease, some of its lifestyle-related risk factors, and what you can do about them. 

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is very common, and it’s also deadly. About 610,000 Americans die every year from heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women. Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is an umbrella term that includes a number of conditions such as coronary artery disease, angina, and congenital heart defects.

There are a number of factors that affect how likely you are to develop heart disease. These are known as risk factors. Some of these factors are set, such as your age, gender, and genetics. However, you have much more control over certain risk factors that are based on your lifestyle.

Risk factors you can change


Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack than those who never smoked. Smoking damages your arteries, resulting in a buildup of fatty material, which in turn narrows your arteries. This narrowing of the arteries can cause a heart attack, because blood can’t travel through them.

If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your heart is to quit. Also, avoid spending time around people when they’re smoking, since secondhand smoke isn’t good for your heart, either.


Your liver produces cholesterol, which is a component of all your cells that is used to make essential substances such as hormones. You also take in cholesterol from the foods you eat. Cholesterol comes in two forms: low density lipoprotein (LDL), and high density lipoprotein.

Low density lipoprotein (LDL) is usually known as the “bad” cholesterol because if you have too much of it, it can build up in your arteries and cause heart disease. High density lipoprotein is called the “good” cholesterol because it helps flush excess cholesterol back to your liver. Eating foods high in LDL, such as rich meats and fatty dairy products, can cause you to have high levels of cholesterol


Hypertension means that you consistently have high blood pressure, so the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is too high. If not controlled, this pressure can cause damage to the tissues inside your arteries, creating a place for cholesterol to gather and narrowing the space where your blood can flow. 


It is estimated that 35% of heart disease deaths occur as a result of physical inactivity. Your heart is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised regularly to keep it strong. In addition, regular exercise reduces blood pressure, decreases the chance of developing diabetes, and reduces obesity — which are three other risk factors for heart disease.


Obesity puts you at risk for heart disease because it can increase your cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels can lead to fatty buildup in your arteries, reducing the flow of blood and creating a risk for heart attacks. In addition, obesity can lead to diabetes and high blood pressure. Losing some weight can take a lot of strain off your heart.

Uncontrolled diabetes

A hormone called insulin allows your body to turn sugar (glucose) that’s in your blood into energy for your body. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce any insulin, or not enough. This results in high levels of glucose remaining in your blood, which is a state known as hyperglycemia. Uncontrolled hyperglycemia can damage your blood vessels, resulting in heart disease.

Heart disease is a very serious medical condition, but there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make that will help keep your heart healthy. At NJ Cardiovascular Institute, Dr. Kunal Patel takes care of your heart and teaches you how to prevent heart disease. Call our office or set up an appointment using our online booking tool today.

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