The Heart & Diving

The Heart & Diving

Overview of Cardiovascular Risk Factors

The most common manifestations of acquired (rather than congenital) cardiovascular disease are coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral artery disease. Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among adults in both North America and Europe.

The likelihood that a given individual will acquire cardiovascular disease and suffer a life-threatening cardiovascular event depends on many risk factors. Some risk factors — such as family history, gender, ethnicity and age — cannot be changed. Other risk factors are modifiable — including some involuntary health conditions and some lifestyle-related factors. Involuntary conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can be treated with medication as well as with diet and lifestyle adjustments. Lifestyle-related risk factors include tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol consumption — all of which can be voluntarily changed.

It is important to understand that having any of these risk factors does not mean that you will definitely develop cardiovascular disease. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater is the likelihood that you will develop cardiovascular disease — unless you control your involuntary health conditions and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The following percentages of deaths caused by cardiovascular disease can be attributed to these specific risk factors:
  • High blood pressure: 13%
  • Tobacco use: 9%
  • High blood sugar: 6%
  • Physical inactivity: 6%
  • Overweight and obesity: 5%