Heart disease includes a wide variety of conditions that can be caused by a wide variety of different factors.

Specific types of heart disease such as rheumatic heart disease or congenital heart disease have specific causes such as infection or birth defects. However, most cases of heart disease develop due to gradual damage to the heart and the blood vessels. In this case, heart disease often does not have a single cause, but rather many factors than together increase the chance of heart damage and eventually results in heart disease. These factors that do not directly result in heart disease but contribute to its development are called risk factors. The more risk factors you have, and the more serious the individual ones are, the greater the chance of developing heart disease.

Some risk factors are out of your control but can still make heart diseases and strokes more likely. Even though you can’t change them, you should still be aware and control what you can. The most common uncontrollable risk factors are:

Age – heart diseases become more likely with age

Sex – Women are slightly protected against heart attack before menopause but then their risk increases afterwards. Women are also less likely to service a heart attack and the signs of a heart attack may be less obvious.

Genetic – Rare forms of inherited heart conditions, high cholesterol or blood pressure can increase the risk of heart disease and strokes.

Family history – If your father or brother suffered heart disease before the age of 55, or your mother or sister before 65 years, then you could also be at increased risk.

Poverty – Poverty can increase stress, anxiety and depression. Healthy lifestyle choices could also not be affordable or available, and good medical treatment could be inaccessible. Therefore, poverty is an important risk factor for heart disease and strokes.

Controllable risk factors

Controllable risk factors are factors that increase your risk of heart disease and stroke that you have the power to change! Even small improvements in each of these can make a big difference.