The underlying cause of coronary heart disease is a slow build up of fatty deposits on the inner wall of the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood (the coronary arteries). These fatty deposits gradually clog the arteries and reduce the flow of blood to the heart. This process, called atherosclerosis, begins when people are young and can be well advanced by middle age.
There is no single cause for coronary heart disease, but there are ‘risk factors’ that increase your chance of developing it.
There are ‘modifiable’ risk factors (ones that you can change), including:
- smoking – both active smoking and being exposed to second-hand smoke
- high blood cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- physical inactivity
- being overweight
- depression, social isolation and a lack of social support.
. There are also risk factors that you can’t change, such as being male, increasing age and having a family history of coronary heart disease.
While some of these risk factors (such as age and gender) can’t be changed, the good news is that there are many steps that you can take to reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease.