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Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors (CVDs): Non-Modifiable VS Modifiable

January 17, 2024 Posted in: Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease – sometimes referred to as CVD – is a term that encompasses various conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. To help us understand, let’s take a closer look at three terms: cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and coronary heart disease. In this article, we’ll break down these terms and explore the factors that can increase or decrease our risk of developing cardiovascular issues.

  • Cardiovascular disease
    • Cardiovascular disease refers to a broad category of conditions related to the heart and blood vessels. It includes heart disease and conditions like heart failure, arrhythmias, and valvular heart diseases. These conditions can affect the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively and may lead to serious health problems.
  • Heart disease:
    • Heart disease is a more specific term within the umbrella of cardiovascular disease. It typically refers to conditions that directly impact the heart muscle, such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, and cardiomyopathy. When people talk about heart disease, they often mean conditions that affect the heart itself.
  • Coronary heart disease:
    • Coronary heart disease specifically involves the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients. These vessels are called coronary arteries. When these arteries become narrowed or blocked by a buildup of fatty deposits (plaque), it can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Coronary heart disease is a common type of heart disease and a significant contributor to cardiovascular complications.

Non-modifiable vs modifiable risk factors

Now, let’s talk about the factors that can influence our risk of developing cardiovascular disease. These factors fall into two main categories: non-modifiable and modifiable.

  • Non-modifiable risk factors:
    • Non-modifiable risk factors are aspects about our health that we cannot change, such as our age, sex assigned at birth, and family history. 
  • Modifiable risk factors:
    • Modifiable risk factors are aspects of our lifestyle and health that we can influence. By making positive changes, we can reduce our risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Modifiable risk factors include things like diet, exercise, smoking habits, blood pressure management, and cholesterol levels.

Common risk factors

Common risk factors involve a combination of things we can and cannot change, giving us a complete picture of heart health. Recognizing how these factors work together is essential for creating effective strategies to prevent cardiovascular issues. By understanding the connections between different elements, we can tailor our approach to keep our hearts healthy.

Age and gender

Age and gender play crucial roles in our heart health. As we grow older, the chances of developing heart issues increase. Men generally have a higher risk than women, but this levels out after menopause. Knowing about these unchangeable factors is important for creating personalized strategies to prevent heart problems.ase prevention in women.

Family history

Our genes have a big impact on our heart health. If heart disease runs in your family, your risk goes up. It's essential to be aware of this and take proactive steps to manage your health. By understanding your family's health background, you can work with healthcare professionals to prevent potential risks.

Lifestyle choices

The way we live our lives can affect our heart health. While some aspects are changeable, they interact with non-modifiable factors. This means our choices influence our overall risk of heart issues. Taking a holistic approach to health involves making informed decisions that positively impact our hearts. By considering both changeable and unchangeable factors, we can actively contribute to our heart health and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Non-modifiable factors


Getting older is a natural part of life, but it also comes with some changes in our bodies. As we age, our arteries might lose some of their flexibility, making them more prone to damage and atherosclerosis (a condition where arteries get clogged). Age is a significant factor in heart health, and it's crucial to keep an eye on it by monitoring our health appropriately as we get older.


Gender is another non-modifiable factor influencing heart health. Men generally face a higher risk than premenopausal women, but things change postmenopause. Hormonal factors come into play, with estrogen playing a protective role in cardiovascular health. Understanding these gender-specific risks is crucial, allowing individuals to address them appropriately.

Family history

While we can't change our family history, knowing about it gives us power. If heart-related issues run in the family, it could mean a higher risk for us too. Armed with this information, we can be watchful and take proactive steps. This might include making lifestyle choices that help prevent potential risks from turning into bigger problems.

Race and ethnicity

Different racial and ethnic groups may have varying risks of cardiovascular diseases. This is often influenced by a mix of genetics, environment, and socio-economic factors. Recognizing these patterns is crucial for creating personalized risk assessments and interventions. By understanding these differences, we can work towards developing strategies that improve heart health in specific communities and reduce health disparities.

Modifiable risk factors

Obesity & dietary choices

The food you choose can greatly impact your heart health. A balanced diet with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins helps maintain a healthy weight and lowers the risk of heart issues. By making smart dietary choices, you actively support your heart and enhance your overall well-being.


Regular physical activity is a changeable factor that positively influences heart health. In our world of less movement, including exercise in your daily routine is crucial. Simple activities like walking, cycling, or playing sports help control weight, manage blood pressure, and boost overall heart function. Making exercise a part of your life is an investment in long-term heart well-being.

Smoking cessation

Smoking is a significant risk for heart diseases, harming the heart and blood vessels. Quitting smoking brings significant improvements to heart health and overall well-being. If you're looking to quit, various resources, including smoking cessation programs, are available to support you on your journey to a smoke-free life.

Blood pressure management

Controlling high blood pressure is crucial for preventing heart diseases. Lifestyle changes like a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management, along with prescribed medications when needed, help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Consistently checking your blood pressure and taking proactive measures empower you to take control of your heart health.


The link between diabetes and heart diseases emphasizes the importance of lifestyle changes for prevention. Effectively managing diabetes involves a holistic approach, combining diet, exercise, and medication when necessary. By addressing diabetes comprehensively, you can reduce the risk of heart-related complications and foster overall heart well-being.

Cholesterol management

Taking care of your cholesterol is crucial for preventing heart diseases. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels involves dietary changes, regular exercise, and, if needed, prescribed medications. Understanding cholesterol intricacies and actively implementing these strategies significantly contributes to promoting overall heart health.

How to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease

Understanding how modifiable and non-modifiable factors affect your heart is the first step to a heart-healthy life. By making positive changes in your lifestyle, like eating a balanced diet, staying active, and avoiding tobacco, you can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases.

CHI Memorial’s Guerry Heart and Vascular Center

At CHI Memorial, we are dedicated to offering comprehensive cardiovascular care. Our Guerry Heart and Vascular Center is equipped with top-notch facilities and a team of skilled professionals committed to preventing, diagnosing, and treating cardiovascular diseases. Through innovative treatments and a focus on you, the patient, we aim to enhance the heart health of our community.

Learn more about the Guerry Heart and Vascular Center

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