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Risk factors you cannot change include age, gender, ethnic background and family history. The risk factors you can change include the following.

Excessive alcohol

Excessive alcohol intake is linked to many chronic conditions such as CVD, as well as other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Depression and stress

People with depression, who are socially isolated or who lack a good support network can be at greater risk of developing CVD. High stress levels can also increase risk.


People with diabetes are over twice as likely to develop CVD as those without, while people with CVD are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure means that blood is pumping with more force than normal through the arteries. This can speed up clogging of the arteries with fatty plaques (atherosclerosis), the underlying cause of many CVDs.

High cholesterol

When there is too much cholesterol in the body, it builds up in the walls of the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. The main cause is eating foods high in saturated and trans fats.


Regular physical activity helps to control other risk factors for CVD, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, and being overweight. It can also be good for mood, and mental and overall physical health.


Being overweight or obese puts extra strain on the body and heart, increasing risk of a range of health problems, including CVD.

Poor nutrition

The body – and the heart – needs a good range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients for proper functioning.


Smoking damages the arteries that supply blood to your heart and body. It increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease.


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