Risk Factors

The risk factors for heart disease appear to be similar for women and men, but their relative impact between women and men is often different. You are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease if any of the following apply to you:

Age: ≥ 55 yrs (or postmenopausal) for women ≥ 45 yrs for men
Diabetes: Fasting glucose >= 126 mg/d
High LDL-cholesterol: ≥ 160 mg/dl (cut-off depends on the presence of other risk factors)
Low HDL-cholesterol: < 40 mg/dl (< 50 mg/dl may be more appropriate cut-point for women) Optimal is ≥ 60 mg/dl (considered a "Negative Risk Factor")
High Blood Pressure: 140/90 mm Hg
Obesity: Body Mass Index ≥ 30
Family History of premature CHD: First degree male relative (father, brother, son) < 55 yrs First degree female relative (mother, sister, daughter) < 65 yrs
Other factors: Sedentary lifestyle Cigarette Smoking


Diabetes is considered a coronary heart disease (CHD) risk equivalent. This means that people with diabetes have the same risk for major coronary events as those who have already been diagnosed with CHD. A diabetic's risk for a heart attack or death from coronary disease is > 20% in the next 10 years.

Diabetic women appear to have an even greater excess risk for CHD then diabetic men. Over the last 30 years cardiovascular deaths in diabetic men have declined significantly while cardiovascular deaths in diabetic women have remained essentially unchanged. Also, women are being diagnosed with diabetes at a younger age. This is possibly related to the obesity epidemic.

Metabolic Syndrome

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