Risk factors for vascular disease are behaviors or physical findings that can put you at greater risk for developing various types of vascular disease. Vascular disease risk factors are divided into those that are both within and beyond your control, including:
Controllable risk factors:
Uncontrollable vascular disease risk factors:
Because the vascular system is so complex, there are various types of vascular disease that may develop. The vascular system is comprised of the body's network of blood vessels. It includes the arteries, veins and capillaries that carry blood to and from your heart. Arteries can become thick and stiff, a condition called arteriosclerosis. Blood clots can clog vessels and block blood flow to the heart or brain. Weakened blood vessels can burst, causing bleeding inside the body. In order to prevent vascular diseases, it is important to identify your own risk factors for vascular disease to avoid future problems from developing.
Some risk factors for vascular disease, such as age and family history, can't be changed. Gender and ethnicity are other such risk factors. Overall, men have a higher risk of developing vascular diseases than women and African-Americans have a higher risk than other ethnic groups. For women, age becomes a vascular disease risk factor at 55, and at age 65 women are just as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as men. Family history of early vascular disease is another risk factor that can't be changed. If your parent or sibling experienced any types of vascular disease, you are more likely to have vascular disease yourself.
While certain risk factors for vascular disease cannot be changed, you do have control over many others. Regardless of your age, background or health status, you can lower your vascular disease risk – and it doesn't have to be complicated. Protecting your heart and blood vessels can be as simple as taking a brisk walk, eating healthy meals, or getting the support you need to maintain a healthy weight.You can make the changes gradually, one at a time. But don’t be fooled into thinking that if you have just one risk factor for vascular disease that you’re safe. There are various types of vascular disease that could potentially develop, and each risk factor greatly increases your chance of developing vascular diseases. Having multiple risk factors for vascular disease is especially serious because risk factors tend to "gang up" and worsen each other's effects. Everyone should take vascular disease risk seriously and should take action now to reduce that risk.
Take our Heart Risk Assessment today to find out if you are at risk. For more information about risk factors for vascular disease, or to learn more about various types of vascular disease, contact your physician.