‘Out of my control’ – Non-modifiable Risk Factors


Non-modifiable risk factors are unchangeable characteristics of a person that make them more vulnerable to developing a cardiovascular disease. Although these risk factors cannot be altered, being aware of them can be helpful in managing your cardiovascular disease risk. Some of the most common non-modifiable risk factors are listed below:

Age

Older people are generally more vulnerable to developing cardiovascular diseases, with the risk increasing with each decade of life. Your risk of coronary heart disease increases after 35 years, and about 70% of all strokes happen in people above 65 years old.

Gender

Cardiovascular diseases are more common in men than in women. There are also differences in age of onset – cardiovascular diseases tend to affect women later in life compared to men, and this may be linked to changes associated with menopause.

Ethnicity

Those of South Asian, African, and Carribean descent are at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular illnesses. For example, South Asians experience heart attacks almost a decade earlier than those of European descent.

Family history

A history of cardiovascular disease in immediate relatives can influence your current risk of cardiovascular disease. If your parents were diagnosed with a premature cardiovascular illness before the age of 50, you are more likely to develop such an illness as well. 

How can I minimize my risk of cardiovascular disease?

It is important to not get intimidated by the number of cardiovascular risk factors out there – controlling your risk factors is much easier than you think. You may have noticed that many of the modifiable risk factors are linked, so making lifestyle changes to manage one risk factor can have ripple effects on the other risk factors. For example, engaging in physical activity can help reduce your risk of being obese and hypertensive, which in turn reduces your risk of cardiovascular illnesses. Even if you have a non-modifiable risk factor, cardiovascular disease is still avoidable. Making healthy lifestyle choices can considerably decrease your risk of cardiovascular disorders despite having a genetic predisposition. Below are a few lifestyle tips that you can follow to minimize your risk:

1. Eat healthier

Incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and foods rich in healthier fats into your diet can significantly reduce your cardiovascular disease risk. You should also avoid foods high in salt, sugar, saturated fats, trans-fats, and refined carbohydrates like sugar-sweetened beverages and packaged foods. Portion control to regulate your calorie intake is also a crucial part of healthy eating.

2. Be more active

Regular physical activity can bring about a sea of change to your health and wellbeing. It helps manage multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors like obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. It is recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. One study showed that people who exercised for at least 30 minutes have a 20%-30% lower risk of dying from a cardiovascular-related illness than those who were insufficiently physically active.

3. Give up unhealthy habits

Smoking and high alcohol consumption make you highly vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases. Although quitting such addictive behaviours may seem daunting, gradual changes and persistence are key to ensure long-term improvements and a healthy heart. It is never too late to start protecting your heart. Simple lifestyle changes are enough to have a tremendously positive impact on your cardiovascular health. Even small steps are fruitful – so it’s important to remain optimistic about your efforts as they won’t be in vain in the long run.