Heart disease can happen whether you have risk factors for heart disease or not. Heart disease is the #1 cause of death of both men and women in the United States.

1 in every 4 deaths is from heart disease, and it claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking are key risk factors for heart disease, and about 49% of Americans have at least one of these three risk factors.

Fortunately, most people who develop heart disease will have some risk factors, and some of these risk factors can be changed or altered by adopting a healthier life style. Changing the reversible risk factors can help reduce heart disease, even if you have risk factors that cannot be changed:

Here are ten risk factors for heart disease:

1. Hypertension

High blood pressure, or a blood pressure of greater than 140/90 on a regular basis, does damage to your blood vessels and causes the heart to work harder. Reducing blood pressure through diet, exercise, and medications can eliminate this as a risk factor for heart disease.

2. Smoking

Those who smoke are at a much greater risk of heart disease over non-smokers. The toxins in cigarettes can increase the risk of clotting and smoking causes vasoconstriction, which is narrowing of the arteries. These together increase the risk of heart disease.

3. Elevated blood cholesterol

The blood vessels become narrower when cholesterol builds up on the inner walls of the arteries leading to the heart. Narrowed blood vessels have a higher risk of getting blood clots in them when compared to arteries that have not become narrowed due to cholesterol deposits.

4. Diabetes mellitus

Those who have diabetes have changes in the blood vessels leading to the heart, brain, and limbs so that blockages can occur if the blood vessels form clots. Lowering your blood sugar keeps the blood vessels from becoming damaged and decreases your risk for heart disease.

5. Being overweight

Men and women with body mass indexes of greater than 25 (get your body mass index checked online) run a greater risk of heart disease. Lowering the weight will turn this risk factor around so you have a normal risk of heart disease. Try to reduce your weight, even if it is hard, your life maybe at stake.

6. Being inactive

If you don’t exercise, your rate of heart disease increases. Exercise keeps your blood pressure down and assists in losing weight, both of which reduce the risk of heart disease.

7. Positive family history of heart disease

If you have a sibling, parent, or grandparent with heart disease, your risk of heart disease is greater. The exact genetic mechanisms behind this phenomenon are not exactly clear.

8. Eating a poor diet

Diets high in saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, and calories all raise the risk of getting heart disease. It is the trans fats and saturated fats that contribute to atherosclerosis, which is the basis of getting heart disease. Instead, you should eat a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and fish, which will decrease the chances of getting heart disease.

9. Having a history of preeclampsia

If you are a woman who has had preeclampsia during pregnancy, (high blood pressure, and protein in the urine in pregnancy) have a higher risk of becoming hypertensive later in life, which increases your risk of having heart disease.

10. Being older

Men above the age of 40 and women above the age of 55 have a higher risk of having heart disease. Women do not have the protective effect of estrogen after menopause and the rate of atherosclerosis and heart disease goes up to reach the rate of men having heart disease.

As you can see, some of these risk factors are completely reversible, while some are not. Women who have had their ovaries removed or who have gone through menopause (which is not reversible) have double the risk of heart disease when compared to women who haven’t had the onset of menopause.

You don’t have to make changes to your lifestyle all at the same time. Tackle one risk factor at a time and you will soon have reversal of those things that contribute to developing atherosclerosis and secondary heart disease.