Risk Factors for Heart Disease That You Cannot Modify

By James M. Rippe

You can’t modify three risk factors for heart disease: your age, gender, and family history. Having one or more of these nonmodifiable risk factors makes it particularly important that you pay close attention to the risk factors that you can modify:

  • Age: Age is considered a significant risk factor for heart disease for men who are older than 45 and for women who are older than 55 or have undergone premature menopause.

  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than women. Furthermore, the onset of symptoms typically occurs ten years later in women than in men; however, pointing out that heart disease remains the number-one killer in both men and women in the United States is important. It becomes particularly prevalent in women after menopause. After age 65, men and women have approximately the same risk for developing CHD.

  • Family history and heredity: Heart disease tends to occur more frequently in some families than in others. Coming from a family in which premature coronary heart disease has occurred significantly increases your risk of developing CHD.

    Premature coronary heart disease is a diagnosed heart condition or the experience of a heart attack or other heart event before age 55 in males or age 65 in females. Having a first-degree relative (father, mother, brother, or sister) who fits this description qualifies as a risk factor.

    The likelihood of having cholesterol or lipid disorders may also run in some families; this condition requires working closely with your doctor starting as early as possible to reduce risk.