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Risk Factors

Why Should I Control My Risk Factors?

Cardiac risk factors increase the chance that you may get heart disease. They can also increase the risk of your heart disease getting worse.

Your risk of worsening heart disease increases when you have more than one risk factor. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a progressive disease, which means that it is more likely to get worse if your risk factors are not under control.

Managing your risk factors means that you need to pay attention to all the risks that could affect your heart disease. It also means you will likely need to make some changes in your lifestyle to help get them under control.

Types of Risk Factors

There are two types of risk factors:

Modifiable risk factors

These factors you can change and control.

  • Calcium content in the coronary arteries
  • Kidney dysfunction (including chronic decreased renal function, protein loss in the urine)
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions and auto-immune diseases [such as rheumatoid arthritis (a disease that causes pain in your joints), systemic lupus erythematosus (when your immune system attacks its own tissues), scleroderma (a disease that causes inflammation and thickening of your skin), and psoriasis (a disease that affects your skin)]
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (a group of diseases that cause breathing problems)
  • Cancer
  • Recreational drugs (such as amphetamines, cocaine, and ecstasy) can increase your risk of having a stroke and developing heart disease

Non-modifiable risk factors

These are factors that you cannot change or control.

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Family history of coronary artery disease
  • Ethnicity

To learn more, watch this video from the Ottawa Heart Institute: Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Non Modifiable Factors (opens in new window) »

Control Your Risk Factors

Take action to control your modifiable risk factors.

  • Know your risk factors for coronary artery disease.
  • Know your numbers. For example, what is your blood pressure?
  • Identify which risk factors are “under control” and which are “not under control”.
  • Learn what steps you need to take to control your risk factors.


  1. Heart and Stroke Foundation Website on risk factors for heart disease (opens in new window)
  2. Ottawa Heart Institute​ on risk factors for heart disease (opens in new window)

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