Risk Factors


Lt Col Reynolds
There can be some serious consequences if dyslipidemia isn’t diagnosed and treated. Because there are usually no noticeable symptoms of dyslipidemia, it’s important to have your cholesterol checked regularly.

Maj West
In fact, after the age of 35 for men and 45 for women, each of us should have our cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years. If you have an increased risk for heart disease, you’ll need to have it checked more often.

Lt Col Reynolds
Your personal risk for heart disease is based on several risk factors. Dr. Phillips, can you help us understand what those risk factors are?

Dr. Phillips
Absolutely. Certain conditions or behaviors are strongly related to an increased risk of heart disease. Of course, high LDL, or “bad” cholesterol is one major risk factor, but there are others that we should also be aware of. The risk factors are divided into two categories: uncontrollable and controllable.

As the name suggests, uncontrollable risk factors are those that we have no control over. These include both gender and age. If you’re a woman 55 years or older, or if you’re past menopause, then you have an increased risk for heart disease. The same is true if you’re a man, 45 years or older. Another uncontrollable risk factor is a family history of heart disease.

Although we can do nothing to change the uncontrollable risk factors, the controllable risk factors are just that — something that potentially can be changed. We can often control or change these factors to help lower our risk of heart and vascular disease.

Controllable risk factors include:

  • Hyperlipidemia, or high cholesterol
  • Management of type 2 diabetes
  • Tobacco use and smoking
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure
  • Low HDL, the “good” cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • An inactive lifestyle, or
  • A diet that is high in saturated fats

Controlling these risk factors, either with lifestyle modifications or drug therapy, reduces the chances of heart disease developing or worsening. Knowing how many risk factors you have can help you and your provider determine what your LDL cholesterol goal should be, and put you on track for reducing your risk for heart disease.