Reduction of Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, often called heart disease. Some factors you can control, while others you cannot.

Reduction of Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, often called heart disease. Some factors you can control, while others you cannot.

Risk Factors

The most common risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
  • High Blood Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight or Obesity
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Smoking or Vaping
  • Stress
  • Age – Men over 45, Women over 55
  • Sex – Males and postmenopausal females have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Family History of Heart Attack or Stroke
  • Ethnicity – People of Indigenous, African, or South Asian descent are at higher risk of heart disease and stroke

The more risk factors you have the greater your risk for developing heart disease.

Reduce Your Risk

There are many ways you can reduce your risk for heart disease.

Manage Your Blood Sugars

If left untreated or improperly managed, diabetes can lead to a variety of complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, eye disease, and nerve damage. People with diabetes are at very high risk of heart disease and stroke and may develop these at a younger age. Unfortunately, up to 80% of people with diabetes will die as a result of a heart attack or stroke.

The good news is that people with diabetes can lower their risk of heart disease and stroke significantly by paying careful attention to all of their risk factors. Working with your doctor and a diabetes care team will help you with making healthy lifestyle changes and optimizing your medications to meet your diabetes management goals.

Reduce Your BAD Cholesterol

When your doctor says you have high cholesterol, they are talking about LDL cholesterol. It is considered the “bad” cholesterol because high levels of LDL are what causes the build-up of plaque on the inside of artery walls. This causes your arteries to narrow and is called atherosclerosis. High LDL levels occur from a combination of your genetics and from the food you eat.

Your doctor may recommend lipid-lowering medications to help manage your cholesterol and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Ask your family doctor for a referral to your primary care network registered dietitian for support in making healthy lifestyle changes.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Small changes in your weight can have a big impact on your heart health. A 5-10% reduction in body weight has been shown to improve both blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Working with a team who specializes in overweight and obesity management can help you make lasting changes to benefit your health.

Lower Your Blood Pressure

Each person’s ideal blood pressure is determined by their personal risk factors. By taking your medication as prescribed and making some lifestyle changes, you can bring your blood pressure down to a healthy range and reduce your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.  In fact, controlling your blood pressure reduces your risk of having a stroke by 40%, a heart attack by 20-25% and heart failure by 50%. For most patients, we target blood pressure reading of less than 140/90mmHg in the doctor’s office, or less than 130/80mmHg if you have diabetes or kidney disease.

Reduce the Stress in Your Life

Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease. People react to stress in different ways; some are healthy responses, while others are not. It is important to understand what causes stress in your life and find ways to reduce it, or deal with it in a healthy way.

Heart & Stroke Foundation: Stress Basics

If you are struggling with stress or your mental health, talk to your healthcare provider about the resources that may be available to you.

AHS Access Mental Health – Calgary

Quit Smoking

Smoking increases your risk of developing CVD by up to 400%. But quitting smoking can do more than reduce your risk of heart disease; it can also reduce your risk for cancer, and improve your breathing. Quitting smoking is hard, and there are many approaches you can take. Your local pharmacist is a great resource for help with quitting smoking. 

Quitting Time              Health Benefits

20 minutes Blood pressure and pulse rate decreases.
8 hours Oxygen level goes back to normal and carbon monoxide levels drop.
48 hours Chances of having a heart attack decreases and sense of smell and taste start improving.
72 hours Breathing will get easier as your bronchial tubes relax and lung capacity begins to increase.
2 weeks to 3 months Circulation improves, exercising becomes easier and lung capacity can increase by as much as 30%.
6 months Improvements in coughing, sinus congestion, tiredness, shortness of breath and colds.
1 year 50% reduction in risk of smoking-related heart attack.
5 years Risk of having a stroke is now reduced to that of a non-smoker.
10 years Risk of dying from lung cancer will decrease by half.
15 years Risk of dying from a heart attack is the same as a person who has never smoked.

For more resources, please visit Alberta Quits

Nine in 10 Canadians (90%) have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke.

To assess your risk for heart disease, visit the Heart & Stroke Foundation.