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11.30: Cardiovascular System Health

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Why is smoking bad for you?

Most people associate smoking with lung disease. But that is not the only health risk of smoking. Smoking is also a major cause of cardiovascular disease.

Keeping Your Cardiovascular System Healthy

There are many risk factors that can cause a person to develop cardiovascular disease. A risk factor is anything that is linked to an increased chance of developing a disease. Some of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease you cannot control, but there are many risk factors you can control.

Risk factors you cannot control include:

  • Age : The older a person is, the greater their chance of developing a cardiovascular disease.
  • Gender : Men under age 64 are much more likely to die of coronary heart disease than women, although the gender difference decreases with age.
  • Genetics : Family history of cardiovascular disease increases a person’s chance of developing heart disease.

Risk factors you can control include:

  • Tobacco smoking : Giving up smoking or never starting to smoke is the best way to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Diabetes : Diabetes can cause bodily changes, such as high cholesterol levels, which are are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
  • High cholesterol levels : High amounts of "bad cholesterol," increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Obesity : Having a very high percentage of body fat, especially if the fat is mostly found in the upper body, rather than the hips and thighs, increases risk significantly.
  • High blood pressure : If the heart and blood vessels have to work harder than normal, this puts the cardiovascular system under a strain.
  • Lack of physical activity : Aerobic activities, such as the one pictured below ( Figure below ), help keep your heart healthy. To reduce the risk of disease, you should be active for at least 60 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Poor eating habits : eating mostly foods that do not have many nutrients other than fat or carbohydrate leads to high cholesterol levels, obesity, and cardiovascular disease ( Figure below ).

60 minutes a day of vigorous aerobic activity, such as basketball, is enough to help keep your cardiovascular system healthy.

The USDA’s MyPyramid recommends that you limit the amount of such foods in your diet to occasional treats.


  • obesity : Condition of having a very high percentage of body fat.
  • risk factor : Anything that is linked to an increased chance of developing a disease.


  • A family history of cardiovascular disease increases a person’s chance of developing heart disease.
  • Having a poor diet and not getting enough exercise are two major causes of cardiovascular disease.


Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.

  1. How much should you move a day to help prevent heart disease?
  2. How much should you sleep a day to help prevent heart disease?


  1. What are three risks factors for cardiovascular disease?
  2. What are some steps you can take to avoid cardiovascular disease?

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Difficulty Level:

At Grade


7 , 8

Date Created:

Nov 29, 2012

Last Modified:

Sep 01, 2014
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