Risk Factors

If you are diagnosed with coronary heart disease (CHD) or have had a heart attack or bypass surgery it is important to identify your individual risk factors.

This enables you to look at ways in which you can control these risk factors in order to prevent further heart problems in the future.

Risk factors can be split into two categories modifiable and non-modifiable.

Modifiable Non-modifiable
Raised cholesterol Age
High blood pressure Gender
Lack of exercise Family history
Poor diet Ethnic background
Maintaining a healthy weight
Excessive alcohol consumption

Control your risk factors

By stopping smoking, taking your medication regularly as prescribed, following a heart healthy diet, and participating in regular physical activity you can help to control you risk factors.

Healthy eating

Eat well plate

By following a heart health diet you can help the recovery process by ensuring that you have the right nutrients, you can also reduce the risk of developing further heart problems or heart disease.

The picture of the eat well plate shows how much of each food group you should try to include in your diet.


A cardio-protective diet is not a low fat diet what is important is the type of fat that you include in your diet. You should try to avoid foods that contain saturated fats or trans fat as these can increase your cholesterol levels.

Try to replace these with foods with polyunsaturated fats or monounsaturated fats as these can help to reduce your cholesterol levels.

However, it is important to remember that all fat is high in calories and therefore if you are trying to lose weight you should try to reduce all the fat in your diet.

What foods contain these fats?

Bad fats   Good fats  
 Saturated fats  Trans Fat  Polyunsaturdated fats  Monounsaturated fats
 Fatty meat  Processed meats (like hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausages)  Oily fish (including salmon, fresh tuna (not tinned), sardines, mackerel)  Olive oil
 Processed meat  Dairy products (Full fat milk, cheese, butter)  Sunflower oil  Rapeseed Oil
 Dairy products  (Full  fat milk, cheese, butter)  Pastries and cakes  Soya oil  Avocado
Pastries and cakes  Chocolate and biscuits  Corn oil  Some nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pecan)
Chocolate and biscuits      Safflower oil

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are an important part of your diet and should make up roughly one third what you eat in a day. You should aim for at least 5 portions each day, it can be fresh, frozen, tinned or dried. Fruit and vegetables are low in calories and contain vitamins, minerals and fibre which can prevent many diseases including heart disease.

Click here for a guide to fruit and vegetable portion sizes


Use a minimum amount in cooking and you should not use salt at the table. Try to experiment with other seasonings eg spices and herbs.

Limit salty foods such as smoked foods, bacon, white bread and cereals. Check food labels as salt can also be listed as sodium, monosodium glutamate and sodium bicarbonate. Check with your cardiac rehab staff if you are having difficultly understanding food labels, they will be able to give you further advice.


Oily fish is a good source of omega-3, which will help protect your heart by: reducing the stickiness of the blood and making it less likely to clot. It also protects the arteries which carry the blood to your heart. Further information about how this can be incorporated into your diet will be given during your cardiac rehabilitation programme.

Alcohol consumption

Although a small amount of alcohol regularly is not harmful, drinking large amounts can increase the risk of long term damage to your health, it is therefore important to know how many units you are drinking, and to be able to remain within the recommended guidelines. For men this is 21 units per week or 3-4 units per day with two alcohol free days and for women this is 14 units per week or 2-3 units per day with two alcohol free days.

How many units are in a drink?

Drink Units Alcohol by volume  Calorie content
Pint of strong cider (Magners) 2.6 units 4.5% 233
Pint of lager (Stella) 2.7units 4.8% 233
25ml single spirit and mixer (gin and tonic) 0.9 units 37.5% 108
750ml bottle of wine 9.4 units  12.5% 570
250ml glass of wine 3 units 12%  185
Pint of beer (John Smiths) 2.3 units 4% ABV  182