Prevent a Heart Attack
If you wish to prevent a heart attack, the first step is knowing the risk factors -- these include smoking, diabetes, and being overweight. Once you know the risk factors, you can start to make good decisions about your health. This can mean making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and becoming more physically active. This can also mean making other changes, such as taking medication and monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Heart Attack Prevention: An Introduction
There is an old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is definitely the case with heart disease and heart attacks. To prevent a heart attack, it is important to understand heart attacks, heart disease, and the risk factors for heart attacks. Then you can use that information to make good decisions about your health.
Regardless of your age, background, or health status, you can lower your risk of having a heart attack -- and it doesn't have to be complicated. Protecting your heart can be as simple as taking a brisk walk, making a good vegetable soup, or getting the support you need to maintain a healthy weight.
And the good news: Research shows that people can lower their heart attack risk enormously -- by as much as 82 percent -- simply by adopting sensible health habits. It's never too late to start protecting your heart health. A recent study shows that among people ages 70 to 90, leading a healthy lifestyle reduces the chances of dying from a heart attack by nearly two-thirds.
What You Need to Know to Prevent a Heart Attack
In most cases, the underlying cause of a heart attack is heart disease (also called coronary artery disease, or CAD), and the cause of heart disease is the thickening and hardening of the inside walls of arteries. This is called atherosclerosis. Some hardening of the arteries occurs normally as you grow older, but certain risk factors can increase the rate at which atherosclerosis develops.
Heart disease and heart attacks share most of the same risk factors, and while certain risks for heart attacks and heart disease cannot be changed, it is important to realize that you do have control over many others.
Heart attack risk factors that you cannot control include:
- Family history of early heart disease.
Risk factors that you can do something about include:
- High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia (see Cholesterol and Heart Attack)
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (see Effects of High Blood Pressure)
- Cigarette smoking (see Heart Attack and Smoking)
- Diabetes (see Diabetes and Heart Disease)
- Being overweight or obese (see BMI Calculator to find your ideal weight)
- Lack of physical activity.
The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance having a heart attack.
(Click Heart Disease Risk to learn more about your risk in the next 10 years.)