Readers Digest
Magazine subscription Podcast

8 Lesser known risk factors for heart disease

BY Susannah Hickling

12th Sep 2023 Health

2 min read

8 Lesser known risk factors for heart disease
High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity make it more likely you’ll develop cardio-vascular disease, but other risk factors might surprise you


A Nottingham University study of more than 60,000 patients with the painful arthritic condition gout found that people who’d had a flare-up had greater odds of having a stroke or heart attack in the following 120 days.
Other conditions that, like gout, involve inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s and lupus also make you more prone to coronary artery disease.


Person's back affected by psoriasis skin conditions
If you have this skin condition, you are 50 per cent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, according to a 2021 American study. The worse your psoriasis, the higher your risk.

Having a premature baby 

Women are by no means spared when it comes to heart disease. Doctors don’t yet really understand why, but studies have shown that having a pre-term or low birth-weight baby, gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia all put mothers on the radar for future heart problems.

Early menopause 

Evidence is mounting of a link between going through the “change” before the age of 45 and cardiovascular disease, including heart failure and the heart rhythm disorder, atrial fibrillation. This may be because women lose the protective effect of oestrogen when levels of this hormone begin to decline in menopause.

Migraines­—if you’re a woman 

In a study of nearly 28,000 female health professionals in the US, women who suffered from migraines with aura had a significantly higher incidence of major cardiovascular events, such as stroke or heart attack, than those who didn’t. What’s more, the cardiovascular incidence rate was higher than for women who were obese.

Air pollution 

Air pollution in New York
Of the 9 million deaths worldwide attributed to air pollution in 2019, 62 per cent were from cardiovascular disease. Poor air quality is associated with high blood pressure and diabetes.
A Chinese study published last year suggested that even short-term exposure to pollutants might trigger acute coronary syndrome, where there is reduced blood flow to the heart. This collection of conditions includes heart attacks.

Skipping breakfast 

It can’t be overstated how important it is to make your morning cornflakes or egg on toast part of your daily routine. Over time, people who don’t have breakfast are more likely to be obese, have high blood pressure and develop type 2 diabetes.
A study of 6,550 American adults found that not eating breakfast brought a significantly increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. 

Sugary drinks 

Long-term consumption of sweet drinks, whether sweetened with sugar or artificial sweetener, makes you more likely to die from a cardiovascular cause, according to a large American study. And the more sweetened beverages you drink, the greater the risk.
So, if you find yourself in any of these groups, it makes sense to keep up to date with health checks and make a few lifestyle changes if you need to.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...
Stories by email|Subscription
Readers Digest

Launched in 1922, Reader's Digest has built 100 years of trust with a loyal audience and has become the largest circulating magazine in the world

Readers Digest
Reader’s Digest is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK’s magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards, please contact 0203 289 0940. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you would like more information about IPSO or the Editors’ Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit