Modifiable Risk Factors

Behavioural Risk Factors

Behavioural risk factors

1 Physical inactivity

There is a direct relationship between physical activity and cardiorespiratory health (risk reduction of CVD, CHD, stroke, hypertension).

Risk reductions routinely occur at levels of 150 minutes of at least moderate-intensity activity per week.13

Even if your patient has existing risk factors for CVD, by keeping active they could lower their risk of premature death compared to inactive people with no risk factors for CVD.8

Physical inactivity can worsen your patient’s other CHD risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, diabetes and prediabetes, and overweight and obesity.14

Help patients to understand how they can consume a heart-healthy diet

2 Unhealthy eating

The role of diet is crucial in the development and prevention of CVD. Diet is one of the key modifiable risk factors that your patient can change that will impact on blood pressure, weight, risk of diabetes and cholesterol levels.8

Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat, eating whole grains, fish, nuts and plenty of fruit and vegetables, alongside reducing dietary sodium, has been shown to offer protection against CHD.8,15

Excessive alcohol intake has also been associated with elevated risk of heart failure, in addition to other serious health problems.16,17 Low levels of alcohol consumption, however, have been shown to lower a person’s CHD risk.18

Help patients to increase their activity levels

3 Stress

Everyday stress, and work-related stress in particular, are growing concerns. There is ongoing research into the direct and indirect connections between stress and CVD risk.8

Stress results from response to physical, chemical, emotional or environmental factors. It can alter the way the body behaves and thereby affect heart health. Otherwise, it’s related to adopting poor habits that are risk factors for CVD, such as:8

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Eating unhealthily
  • Physical inactivity

Stress-management programmes have repeatedly been shown to improve not only subjective well-being but also risk factor levels and CVD outcomes.19

4 Smoking

Every year smoking causes around 100,000 deaths in the UK.20

Smoking increases the risk of CVD by causing a number of immediate responses in the body. Nicotine increases adrenalin production, thus raising blood pressure, and elevates levels of LDL-cholesterol while decreasing HDL-cholesterol. It also increases the triglycerides in the bloodstream.21

The benefits of smoking cessation

The most important lifestyle change your patients can make to improve their heart health is to stop smoking: five years after quitting, their risk of a heart attack will be half that of a smoker.8 Quitting smoking effectively reduces cardiovascular risk to close to that of a person who has never smoked.8

Your patients can get support and advice on quitting smoking from The NHS Smokefree website