Know your ❤: reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease
Your heart will have beaten around two and a half billion times by your 70th birthday.1 That’s impressive, right? It’s no wonder the heart is the strongest muscle in the body.1
But while your heart is strong, certain lifestyle factors can compromise its strength and potentially lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD), the world’s number one killer.1 In support of the World Heart Federation’s aim to stop the world’s biggest killer, we’ll talk you through what the risk factors of CVD are, and what you can do to keep your heart healthy.
Cardiovascular disease: What is it?
CVD is a class of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels (veins and arteries), like coronary heart diseases, that can cause a heart attack or stroke.1
CVD is the number one cause of mortality.1 In fact, it was responsible for an estimated 17.9 million deaths in 2019 — that’s nearly a third of all deaths worldwide.2
Some of the risk factors that can compromise your heart health include a build-up of bad cholesterol, having diabetes, a family history of CVD, continuous high blood pressure, an unhealthy diet, and smoking. When uncontrolled, they can leave your heart more vulnerable and put you at greater risk of developing CVD.1,3 There is also growing evidence that influenza infection (flu) may negatively affect heart health and contribute to acute cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack or stroke.4–7 There are actions you can take to help reduce your cardiovascular risk.1,8–12
The risk factors you can control
Firstly, it’s important to note that having risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop CVD.3 However, the more factors you have, the more likely it is that CVD can develop.3
Some risk factors, such as your family history, can’t be changed.3 But the good news is that many of them can.1,8,9,11,12
Reducing your bad cholesterol, controlling your diabetes, and managing your blood pressure can all lower the risk.1,3,8,9
By identifying what your risk factors are, you can ensure you’re taking the right steps to protect your heart.13 Speaking to a doctor can also help if you have any concerns.
Beyond risk factors, did you know that influenza infection (flu) can trigger a heart attack or stroke?4–7 In fact, the risk of a heart attack is 10 times greater within the 3 days following a flu infection.6,7 You can help reduce that risk every winter by getting a flu shot.14 It’s even more important if you are aged 65 years or older and/or you have a chronic disease.15
Cholesterol and your heart health
Your cholesterol is made up of two kinds: high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), also known as “good cholesterol”, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), referred to as “bad cholesterol”.8
Despite being known as “bad cholesterol”, LDL-C isn’t necessarily bad in small amounts. However, having too much of it can be. CVD, including strokes and heart disease, can develop due to an imbalance between bad and good cholesterol.8 This imbalance can cause cholesterol to build up and form plaques that narrow arteries or block blood flow.8 Eventually, these plaques may break apart and lead to a heart attack or stroke.8
Making lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier and stopping smoking, are just a few ways you can help shift your levels of cholesterol in favor of “the good kind”.8 In fact, studies have shown that for every unit decrease in bad cholesterol, your risk of CVD (including heart attack) halves.16
Working together to optimise cardiovascular care
The development of new therapies and protocols in managing CVD can lead to changes in medical guidelines, and new opportunities to improve patient outcomes. Together with experts, we developed several key projects to help clinicians stay informed of the latest advancements and identified solutions to address barriers they may face to implement guideline recommendations in practice.17–19
Our Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) Pathway Optimisation Project is one key initiative helping to improve CVD management. It encourages cooperation between the different healthcare providers managing patients to implement guideline recommendations, provide clear instructions for follow-up and empower their patients to take responsibility of their heart health.17–19
Tools and programs like ours can help doctors feel confident that they’re fully equipped with the information they need, and inspire them to work together, to provide their at-risk patients with the right care.18
We’re working with doctors to identify how at-risk patients may be missing out on potentially life-saving solutions. We want to bridge those gaps with innovative healthcare tools and therapies.
Global Cardiovascular Medical Head at Sanofi
Protecting your heart’s future
If there’s one thing you should take from our article, it’s this: giving your heart a little more love can go a long way. By doing so, you can reduce your risk of developing CVD and keep your heart healthy for longer.1,8–12
1. World Heart Federation. What is cardiovascular disease? Available at: https://world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/cvd-causes-conditions/what-is-cvd/. Last accessed August 2023.
2. World Health Organization. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds). Last accessed August 2023.
3. World Heart Federation. Risk factors. Available at: https://world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/cvd-causes-conditions/risk-factors/. Last accessed August 2023.
4. Nealon J, Derqui N, de Courville C, et al. Looking Back on 50 Years of Literature to Understand the Potential Impact of Influenza on Extrapulmonary Medical Outcomes. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2022;9(8):ofac352.
5. Kwong J, Schwartz K, Campitelli M, et al. Acute Myocardial Infarction after Laboratory-Confirmed Influenza Infection. N Engl J Med. 2018;378:345–353.
6. Ohland J, Warren-Gash C, Blackburn R, et al. Acute myocardial infarctions and stroke triggered by laboratory-confirmed respiratory infections in Denmark, 2010 to 2016. Eurosurveillance. 2020;25(17):1900199.
7. Warren-Gash C, Blackburn R, Whitaker H, et al. Laboratory-confirmed respiratory infections as triggers for acute myocardial infarction and stroke: a self-controlled case series analysis of national linked datasets from Scotland. Eur Respir J. 2018;51(3):1701794.
8. World Heart Federation. CVD & cholesterol. Available at: https://world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/cvd-causes-conditions/risk-factors/cholesterol/. Last accessed August 2023.
9. World Heart Federation. CVD & diabetes. Available at: https://world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/cvd-causes-conditions/risk-factors/diabetes/. Last accessed August 2023.
10. World Heart Federation. Hypertension. Available at: https://world-heart-federation.org/what-we-do/hypertension/. Last accessed August 2023.
11. World Heart Federation. Healthy diet. Available at: https://world-heart-federation.org/what-we-do/healthy-diet/. Last accessed August 2023.
12. World Heart Federation. CVD & tobacco use. Available at: https://world-heart-federation.org/world-heart-day/cvd-causes-conditions/risk-factors/tobacco/. Last accessed August 2023.
13. Mach F, Baigent C, Catapano AL, et al. 2019 ESC/EAS guidelines for the management of dyslipidaemias: lipid modification to reduce cardiovascular risk. Eur Heart J. 2020;41(1):111–188.
14. MacIntyre CR, Mahimbo A, Moa AM, et al. Influenza vaccine as a coronary intervention for prevention of myocardial infarction. Heart 2016;102:1953–1956.
15. Lee J, Lam G, Yin J, et al. High-dose influenza vaccine in older adults by age and seasonal characteristics: Systematic review and meta-analysis update. Vaccine: X. 2023;14:100327.
16. Packard C, Chapman MJ, Sibartie M, et al. Intensive low-density lipoprotein cholesterol lowering in cardiovascular disease prevention: opportunities and challenges. Heart. 2021;107(17):1369–1375.
17. Sanofi. Cardiovascular diseases. Available at: https://www.sanofi.com/en/your-health/medicines/cardiovascular-diseases. Last accessed August 2023.
18. Sanofi. Protecting heart health: flu vaccines and beyond. Available at:
https://www.sanofi.com/en/magazine/your-health/protecting-heart-health-flu-vaccines-and-beyond. Last accessed August 2023.
19. Catapano AL, De Caterina R, Jukema JW, et al. Addressing current challenges in optimization of lipid management following an ACS event: Outcomes of the ACS EuroPath III initiative. Clin Cardiol. 2023;46(4):407–415.