Heart disease, AtheroSclerotic CardioVascular Diseases (ASCVD), or simply CVD, is a leading cause of death worldwide and in India. India is said to be facing an epidemic of CVD and diabetes, which occur nearly a decade earlier in Indian population as compared to the west.

Heart disease, as is commonly understood includes not only ‘Ischemic Heart Disease’ or ‘Coronary Heart Disease, (IHD or CHD), but also ‘Carotid Artery Disease’ or CAD which affects the brain, ‘Peripheral Artery Disease’ which affects the limbs and ‘Chronic Kidney Disease’ or CKD. These can lead to life threatening complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure or gangrene of the limbs. Read all about ‘Heart disease: pathology and symptoms’

The best way to avoid these complications is to avoid or control the risk factors that cause heart disease, so find below information on what these risks are

What are the risk factors for heart disease and CVD?

Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease. They can also increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse.

Important risk factors for heart disease (CVD) are divided into two groups:

1. Heart disease risk factors that you can’t do anything about:

  • Age and sex: Men have higher risk of getting heart disease than women in early years, but once women attain their menopause, women follow men by 10 years only. Also, The presence of diabetes, as well as tobacco use, eliminates the protection from heart disease associated with female sex
  • Having a family history of early heart disease:  father or brother with heart disease at 55 years or less or mother or sister having heart disease at 65 years of age or less
  • Being Indian: As per US data, Asian Indians exhibit a 2- to 3-fold higher prevalence of CAD than do whites in the United States. They also have greater prevalences of  high lipoprotein(a) levels, and diabetes

2. Heart disease risk factors that can be controlled:

  • High blood pressure (BP)
  • High blood total and LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being physically inactive
  • Unhealthy diet

In order to assess how these factors collectively impact your risk of CVD, measured as ‘10 year risk of your getting CVD complications’, namely heart attack and stroke, predictive scoring systems have been designed. You may have heard of the Framingham score, invented in US and specific to their population, which is the most famous amongst all such scores

For Indian population, the only specific score available is the WHO-ISH score, which we at FWI use to calculate your heart risk

However, if an individual has any of the specific risk factors mentioned below, his/her risk of heart attack in next 10 years IS very high and the risk calculator is not even needed (as per WHO) and they should control their risk aggressively. These include:

  1. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, especially more than 160/110
  2. Uncontrolled blood cholesterol, total cholesterol> 320 mg/dL or LDL >190 mg/dL
  3. Uncontrolled diabetes
  4. Already diagnosed CVD (on ECG, Exercise Tolerance Test, angiography or doppler studies etc.)

Others should get their heart risk assessed since the intensity of lifestyle modifications as well as medical interventions for prevention will all depend on the risk assessment


Read: ‘What are the desired levels of heart risk factors and how to achieve them?’ to get to know about the risks factors in detail

CHECK OUT: Our references for recommendation in heart risk management