Causes and Risks

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Causes and Risk Factors

Tobacco Use - Effects on Arteries

According to the American Heart Association, the lifetime risk of having coronary heart disease after age 40 is 49 percent for men and 32 percent for women.

As women get older, the risk increases almost to that of men. (See also heart disease and women

There are many factors that increase the risk for CAD, some of which can be controlled.

CAD risk factors include the following:

  • Family history of coronary heart disease, stroke or peripheral arterial disease. (especially before age 50 in men; or before age 60 in women)
  • Family history of stroke or peripheral artery disease
  • Male gender
  • Age (65 and older)
  • Tobacco smoking 
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol levels (specifically, high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides)
  • Lack of physical activity or exercise
  • Obesity
  • Menopause in women

Since CAD is related to certain aspects of lifestyle, many risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity can be controlled. Although medical treatments for heart disease have advanced greatly, controlling risk factors remains the key to preventing illness and death from CAD.

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This page was last updated: September 15, 2014

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