Skip to content

Are you at risk of heart disease? 12 signs you need to know

We've put togther 12 risk factors for heart disease

Man wearing a beanie eats a burger
Man wearing a beanie eats a burger

Heart disease is one of the country’s biggest health problems with one Aussie dying from cardiovascular disease every 12 minutes. So, we’ve put together 12 of the biggest risk factors – and some of them might surprise you!

The biggest risk factors of heart disease

1. Age

As you get older, your risk of heart disease increases. In fact, the majority of heart attacks occur in those aged 45 or over. So, despite how young you feel, it’s important to keep tabs on your ticker.


Men have a higher risk of getting heart disease; but, as a woman grows older, her risk increases –especially after menopause.

3. Ethnicity

Some ethnicities have a greater risk of heart disease than others. For example, people from the Indian sub-continent, as well as Torres Strait Islanders may be at greater risk.

Credit: nib health insurance

4. Family history

If you have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol, it’s important to talk to a health professional about your risk.

5. Smoking

We all know how bad smoking is for your lungs, but it also greatly increases your risk of heart attacks and other types of heart disease and stroke. At nib, we’re passionate about keeping your heart healthy, so we offer a number of Extras products that pay benefits towards quit smoking programs and Nicotine replacements. To find out whether you’re eligible, call us on 13 16 42.

6. High cholesterol

There are different types of cholesterol in the body. The two main types of cholesterol are LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol is known as the ‘bad cholesterol’ and builds up into fatty plaques in the arteries, so this needs to be low. HDL cholesterol is known as the ‘good’ cholesterol and helps to prevent bad cholesterol from building up in the arteries, so this needs to be high. If you have a high cholesterol reading, you may have too much bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), which is a big risk factor for heart disease.

High blood pressure is also known as 'the silent killer' because it doesn’t have any obvious signs or symptoms

7. High blood pressure

High blood pressure is also known as the silent killer because it doesn’t have any obvious signs or symptoms. This means it’s so important that you get your blood pressure tested with your GP regularly. To find out more about high blood pressure and its effect on the heart, read our article: Blood pressure: what’s your number?

8. Diabetes

Diabetes and cardiovascular disease are unavoidably linked. High blood glucose is a major risk factor for developing coronary heart disease, stroke and damage to the kidneys, eyes and nerves. If you have diabetes, it’s essential that you continually work with a health professional to minimise your risk of heart disease by keeping your diabetes well controlled. Some people have a higher risk of getting diabetes than others. You can check your risk by using the Diabetes Australia risk calculator.

9. Being inactive

Many Aussies simply aren’t exercising enough, making them at risk of heart and other disease. The Heart Foundation recommends 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity every week - and it doesn’t have to be in a gym! Try taking a short walk, doing some body weight exercises (like push-ups, squats or lunges) or playing a round of golf.

A young woman sits on a sidewalk smoking a cigarette

10. Being overweight and your waist circumference

Having a healthy body weight lowers your risk of heart problems. Many health professionals use BMI as a measurement. Where your fat is located can also be a sign that you might develop an ongoing health problem. Excess fat in the abdominal area (commonly referred to as ‘the apple shape’) is largely visceral. This type of fat has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The Heart Foundation warns that a waist circumference of above 94cm for men and 80cm for women means you may be at risk of ongoing health problems. If you are concerned about your weight or waist circumference, it’s a good idea to seek advice from a dietitian or other health professional.

11. Unhealthy diet

Having a healthy diet can assist with a number of heart disease risk factors including weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. The key to eating healthy is to choose a variety of nutritious foods and not eating too much saturated fat, salt, sugar and alcohol. It’s also important to limit ‘snacky’ foods or ‘discretionary’ foods like sugary drinks, chips, lollies and cakes. These foods are energy dense and nutrient poor. For more information visit Eat for Health.

12. Depression

Those who have depression, are socially isolated or don’t have a good support network have been found to be at greater risk of heart disease. If you feel depressed, it’s essential that you talk to your doctor. For more information, visit beyondblue.

Does your policy cover your heart?

At nib, we believe that understanding your health cover should be simple, so if you aren’t sure that you’re covered for heart related procedures and heart surgery, check out your policy in member account or call us on 13 16 42 for a cover review.