What are the CHD risk factors I can control?

By: Elizabeth Scherer


A smoker's risk for CHD is double that of a nonsmoker's. The American Heart Association calls smoking the "single most preventable cause of death" in the United States. Smoking clogs arteries by damaging artery walls, allowing cholesterol to be deposited more easily. Here is some of the damage smoking causes.

  • It may reduce blood levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, by as much as 15%.
  • It makes your platelets stickier. This means it takes less time for your blood to clot, which can lead to heart attacks.
  • It multiplies the effect of other risk factors. If you've experienced chest pain, called angina, smoking is particularly dangerous.
  • It is particularly dangerous for you to smoke if you have ever had a heart attack. The nicotine in tobacco can interfere with your heart's normal rhythm and lead to sudden cardiac death.

Exposure to secondhand smoke. Even if you don't smoke, being exposed to others' smoke increases your risk for heart disease. This includes living with someone who smokes.