9 Lesser Known Heart Disease Risk Factors - Virtua Article

9 Lesser Known Heart Disease Risk Factors

Smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes—you may know the common risk factors for heart disease. But, there are others that you don’t hear about every day. Beware of these lesser-known risk factors. 

Obesity and Poor Diet

Obesity and unhealthy eating habits can put you at risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. 

What can you do: Make healthier decisions when meal planning or talk to a registered dietitian

Older Age

Aging is inevitable, but it’s important to know that the older you get the greater your risk for heart disease. 

What can you do: Annual checkups with your doctor help you keep track of changes in your blood pressure, weight and other risk factors.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Physical inactivity is the new smoking. The less you move the higher your risk of heart disease. 

What can you do: The American Heart Association suggests no less than 10,000 steps per day, so get active. Here are three easy suggestions for adding more steps to your daily activity: 

  • Park farther away from the office
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk, instead of drive to complete your errands

Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis, are more common in women than men. These diseases cause inflammation in the body. If the inflammation occurs in the heart, it puts you at a higher risk for a sudden heart attack. 

What can you do: If you are diagnosed with autoimmune disease, talk with your doctor about ways to decrease your risk.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease increases the amount of calcium in your blood stream, which causes plaque formation in your arteries. Clogged arteries greatly increase the likelihood of a heart attack.

What can you do: Lower your risk of chronic kidney disease by controlling your blood pressure and blood sugar through healthy and exercise. Early detection of kidney disease decreases your chances of heart disease, so if you're experiencing kidney problems see your doctor immediately. 

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease leads to poor circulation in your arms and legs, which can put stress on your heart. 

What can you do: If you experience calf pain when walking or a weak or absent pulse in your legs or feet, see your primary care physician.


The American Heart Association discovered a link between depression and heart disease. One in 10 Americans age 18 and older is diagnosed with depression. Roughly one-third of those diagnosed with depression suffer a heart attack. 

What can you do: If you suffer from depression, ask your doctor what steps you can take to lower your risk. 


Anemia is a condition that causes low hemoglobin levels in the body. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to your tissues and organs. When there is a shortness of blood and oxygen being carried around the body, it puts greater stress on the heart. This stress increases your risk for heart failure or stroke. 

What can you do: Tell your doctor if you often experience fatigue, unusually rapid heart beat, shortness of breath or pale clammy skin as these are signs of anemia and can be address by your doctor. 

Long-Term Conditioning

Just as lack of exercise can have negative effects on your heart, too much exercise can as well. People who exercise at a high intensity over long periods of time have higher rates of heart problems than people who exercise more moderately. 

What can you do: Be smart about conditioning and monitor your heart rate. 

Updated May 23, 2018

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