Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and Angina
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Risk Factors for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and Angina

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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop CAD or angina with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing CAD or angina . If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Lifestyle Factors

Certain lifestyle factors may cause atherosclerosis , which can lead to CAD. These include:

  • Physical inactivity, which can lead to obesity
  • Smoking, which damages both blood vessels and the lungs
  • A diet that is high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or calories
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol, which can lead to high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels

Certain Medical Conditions

If you have any of the following medical conditions, you are at greater risk of developing angina and CAD:

Genetic Factors

You are at greater risk if you have a strong family history of CAD or angina.


Men tend to develop atherosclerosis earlier the women. However, a woman’s risk rises once she enters menopause , and heart disease is the leading cause of death in both sexes.

Certain Blood Test Results

Recent research has found an association between levels of certain amino acids or proteins in the blood and the risk of developing CAD. Clinicians and policymakers have not yet recommended widespread screening for these levels since they are not sure that these tests will add benefit to those already in place for the general poplulation. Talk to your doctor to find out the latest recommendations and see if these tests make sense for you.

  • Homocysteine—High levels may mean an increased risk of CAD.
  • C-reactive protein—High levels may mean an increased risk of CAD.


Your risk of angina and CAD increases as you get older. Men older than 45 and women older than 55 (or younger if they have premature menopause) are at greater risk of heart disease.

Race and Ethnic Factors

African Americans have a higher incidence of hypertension than Caucasians and, therefore, a higher risk of developing CAD. Heart disease risk is also higher among Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans.


Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 7th ed. WB Saunders; 2005.

Depression is a risk factor for coronary artery disease in men. Archives of Internal Medicine. 1998;158.

The Homocysteine Studies Collaboration. Homocysteine and risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2002;288:2015-2022.

Mosca L. C-reactive protein—to screen or not to screen. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:1615-1617.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ .

Ridker PM, et al. Comparison of C-reactive protein and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in the prediction of first cardiovascular events. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:1557-1565.

Risk factors and coronary heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4726 . Accessed November 2003.

Wilson PWF. Homocysteine and coronary heart disease. How great is the hazard? JAMA. 2002;288:2042-2043.

Last reviewed May 2007 by Craig Clark, DO, FACC, FAHA, FASE

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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