Ask an Expert: What Heart Disease Risk Factors Should People Be Aware Of?

This article is part of Health Divide: Heart Disease Risk Factors, a destination in our Health Divide series.

ask the expert Dr. Velarde

Julie Bang / Verywell

Meet the Expert

Gladys Velarde, M.D. is a member of the American College of Cardiology Prevention, Disparities of Care Work Group, and on the CardioSmart.org editorial board. Dr. Velarde's clinical interests include heart disease in women and other populations along with preventive care.

Verywell Health: What heart disease risk factors should people be aware of?

Dr. Velarde: Smoking is a significant risk factor because it is so damaging, not only to the cardiovascular system, but to all organs. Despite smoking rates decreasing in the United States, it is still quite pervasive and more so in certain regions of the country.

Quitting tobacco is critical because it doesn’t matter how well you eat or how much you exercise: if you smoke, you’re putting yourself at great risk of developing health conditions, including heart disease.

Another major factor is stress. Especially during the pandemic, everyone is feeling some level of stress. It’s forcing us to reevaluate our lives, values, and our relationships. We need to be more lenient with ourselves and one another.

People can help combat stress through things like:

  • Meditation
  • Connecting with family and friends more often
  • Being outdoors and appreciating nature

And, of course, knowing your family history for heart disease will help you be aware of your risk. It’s also important to track your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers and, if they are elevated, treat them under the guidance of your healthcare provider.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette smoking among U.S. adults hits all-time low.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and tobacco use health effects.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease and mental health disorders.