Coronary Artery Disease (Heart Attack)


Risk Factors

Several things can increase the risk of coronary artery disease or a heart attack.

Cigarette Smoking 

Smoking creates a high risk for coronary artery disease. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in the smoke strains the heart by making it work harder. The chemicals damage the coronary blood vessels even more.

Smokers improve their health as soon as they stop smoking. It’s never too late to benefit from quitting.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Untreated high blood pressure can damage blood vessels by making them thicker or harder. These vessels are more likely to develop plaque buildup.  

Blood Cholesterol Levels

There are different types of cholesterol in your blood. There is “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and “good” cholesterol (HDL). High levels of LDL are related to worse atherosclerosis. HDL is considered “good” because it carries away the “bad” cholesterol.


Normal aging causes coronary arteries to stiffen and narrow. In older adults, coronary artery disease is often not diagnosed quickly because:

  • Adults who are not physically active may not notice symptoms until the disease is serious.
  • Signs of chest pain (angina) can be different among older adults than younger adults. So, early symptoms may not be obvious for a long period of time.

Other Risk Factors 

  • Family history
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Menopause
  • High stress levels


Last Updated February 2023

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