Am I at risk of
heart disease?

What are the risk factors?


You are considered to have a family history of cardiovascular disease if:

  • Your father or brother was under the age of 55 when they were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or
  • Your mother or sister was under the age of 65 when they were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

If you have family history of cardiovascular disease, make sure you tell your doctor or nurse. They may want to check your blood pressure and cholesterol.

If you are over 40 years of age, you can visit your doctor and ask for a heart health check to find out your risk of getting cardiovascular disease.


There is no one single cause for high cholesterol. Many different factors can contribute to high cholesterol such as:

  • eating a diet that is high in saturated fat
  • smoking
  • lack of physical activity
  • high alcohol intake,
  • kidney or liver disease.

Having an inherited condition known as familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) can also cause exceptionally high cholesterol even if you have a healthy lifestyle.

High Blood

High blood pressure isn’t usually something that you can feel or notice, but if you have it you’re more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a stroke.


Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked.

Smoking causes an increase in plaque formation in the blood vessels, which over time can lead to clot build up and narrowing of the arteries leading to heart problems.

Stopping smoking has huge benefits and it’s never too late to give up.


If you are overweight or obese you are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than someone who is a healthy weight.

Being overweight can:

  • raise your blood cholesterol levels
  • increase your blood pressure
  • increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Because these are risk factors for coronary heart disease, your weight can have a big impact on your long-term health.

Even if you don’t have any of these conditions, it’s important to keep to a healthy weight so you don’t develop them in future.


If you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than someone without diabetes.

So what does exercise
do for you?

  • It increases your physical fitness –enabling you to take more exercise without problems – such as breathlessness or, if you are subject to it, angina.
  • It improves your well-being.
  • It lifts depression and reduces anxiety.
  • It reduces your blood pressure – both at rest and on exercise.
  • It improves your blood fats, reducing the harmful LDL cholesterol and increasing the beneficial HDL cholesterol.
  • It helps with weight control.
  • It improves your sex life.
  • It reduces the chance of developing diabetes or, if you are diabetic, improves the control of your blood sugar.
  • It reduces the tendency of the blood to clot.
  • It lessens the risk of abnormal heart rhythms.
  • It improves prognosis – that is to say it leads to a longer life with a reduced chance of future heart problems.

Visit our exercise programmes page

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