Know your risk factor

12 July 2019

Dr Kim Tan, Consultant Cardiologist


Medical conditions and lifestyle choices can put people at a higher risk for heart disease. With our sedentary lifestyles, the risk factors have now exceeded beyond the traditional one such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. For example:

  • Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease significantly more in women than in men.
  • Metabolic syndrome – a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides – has a greater impact on women than on men.
  • Mental stress and depression affect women’s hearts more than men’s. Depression makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment, so talk to your doctor if you’re having symptoms of depression.
  • Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than in men.
  • Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease, and as a group, women tend to be less active than men.
  • Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (microvascular disease).
  • Pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can increase a woman’s long-term risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and increase the risk of development of heart disease in both the mother and in her children.
  • Excessive alcohol use can raise the levels of some fats in the blood (triglycerides), which can lead to high blood pressure and heart failure.
  • Poor nutrition and diet lead to obesity and poor cholesterol and triglycerides levels, which eventually can cause heart diseases.


There are several lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease:

  • Quit or don’t start smoking. The effects of quitting start to set in immediately, such as your heart rate will already start to drop back to normal levels after just 20 minutes of quitting. Plus after two hours without a cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure will have decreased to near normal levels.
  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days of the week, or 60 to 90 minutes if you need to lose weight. Benefits of exercising include healthier heart, stronger circulation, lower blood pressure and more.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Keeping your weight down will keep your heart healthy.
  • Eat a diet that’s low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt. Key to preventing or slowing heart disease is eating a heart-healthy diet full of lean protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • If you’re already on prescribed medications such as blood pressure medications, blood thinners or aspirin, it’s important to continue and at the same time manage the above risk factors.