Coronary risk factors are those conditions or diseases that increase a person's risk of developing coronary heart disease, or CHD. Someone with CHD has a blockage in the arteries that supply blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the heart.

What is the information for this topic?

CHD is the number one cause of death in many developed countries. It is also associated with a higher risk of:

  • arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats. These are caused by a decreased blood flow to the electrical system of the heart.
  • chest pain, which can be stable angina or unstable angina
  • congestive heart failure, a condition in which the weakened heart is unable to pump enough blood to body organs
  • heart attack, which occurs when blockage of the heart arteries becomes severe and cuts off the circulation of fresh blood

People who already have CHD and those who have certain conditions called CHD "risk equivalents" are at the greatest risk of having a major heart-related problem. A person with CHD risk equivalents has the same level of risk for a major heart-related problem as someone who already has heart disease. These conditions include:

  • diabetes
  • other clinical signs of atherosclerosis. These include peripheral arterial disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, or certain types of carotid artery disease.
  • the presence of multiple risk factors (listed below) that give the person a greater than 20% chance of developing CAD within 10 years

A person's risk of developing CHD within 10 years is determined by using information from the Framingham Heart Study. This 10-year risk is calculated from a formula that looks at the following:

  • age
  • cigarette smoking
  • HDL cholesterol
  • systolic blood pressure, which is the top number on a blood pressure reading total cholesterol
  • treatment for high blood pressure

The ATP III guidelines identify low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol as a key factor in lowering a person's risk for CHD. Therefore, a person's LDL level is a key part of the coronary risk profile.