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The term risk factor refers to certain living habits which cause disease or which are observed more frequently among coronary patients than among healthy persons. Although a specific cause and effect pattern may not be discernible in each individual case, it is nonetheless worthwhile to compile a risk profile in order that every person may determine and subsequently reduce his personal risk factors. Since the risk factors discussed in this chapter are of varying importance to the particular individual, the order of the risk factors is necessarily arbitrary.

The reader may ask, 'why'? It is known that fat metabolism plays an important role in the development of a heart attack, in fact a more significant role than high blood pressure. (In the case of stroke, on the contrary, high blood pressure is the primary risk factor.) But it is also known that many young people smoke and that cigarette smoking may entail grave consequences, particularly for the heavy smokers under the age of 40. Moreover, the contraceptive pill plays a decisive role for those women who are already in risk for other reasons, e.g. smoking and hypertension.