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Risk Factors

Many Risk Factors Can Be Controlled

There is a long list of traits, conditions and habits that can raise your risk of developing coronary artery disease. The more you have, the greater your risk.

Fortunately, many of these can be controlled, helping to prevent or delay the development of CAD. These risk factors include:


Elevated levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol and/or low levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol. This can help increase the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Total cholesterol should be under 200. LDL cholesterol should be under 100. HDL cholesterol should be over 40.

High Blood Pressure

Uncontrolled blood pressure can help harden and thicken the arteries. In general, your blood pressure should be less than 120/80.

Family History

A family history of heart disease increases your risk of developing CAD. Your risk increases if your father or brother was diagnosed with CAD before the age of 55 or if your mother was diagnosed before age 65.


Your risk for CAD increases with age. For men, the risk increases sharply after age 45. For women, the risk jumps after age 55.


Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining. Smoking can also raise cholesterol and blood pressure. It also reduces the amount of oxygen getting your body's tissues.


Your body mass index (BMI) should be under 25.


Activities designed to manage stress may reduce your risk of CAD.


Blood sugars should be kept under control.

Metabolic Syndrome

This is a collection of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high triglycerides, elevated insulin levels and excess body fat around the waist.

Sleep Apnea

This is a condition in which your breathing stops or gets very shallow while you are sleeping.

High Levels of C-Reactive Protein

Emerging research suggests that high levels of a protein called CRP in the blood may raise the risk of developing CAD or having a heart attack.

Contact Information

Cardiac Surgery
Division of the CardioVascular Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building, 2A
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215