Preventing Heart Attacks
If you want to minimize your chances of having a heart attack, it's important to your risk factors for heart disease and heart attack. Risk factors for these conditions include being overweight, smoking, and having diabetes. Lifestyle changes (such as losing weight or quitting smoking) can minimize these risk factors and reduce your chances of having a heart attack. For some people, heart attack prevention may mean taking medications in addition to making lifestyle changes.
Most heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition in which arteries within the heart (known as coronary arteries) become narrowed due to a process called atherosclerosis. Coronary artery disease is actually just one of several types of heart disease. However, when most people talk about heart disease, they are actually referring to coronary artery disease in particular. This article will do the same.
Heart attack prevention begins by knowing about your heart disease risk factors along with your risk factors for heart attack, and then taking action to lower your risks. Other steps for preventing heart attacks include:
- Monitoring your health
- Knowing your family's medical history
- Making lifestyle changes
- Possibly taking medication.
You can lower your risk of having a heart attack, even if you have already had a heart attack or are told that your chances of having a heart attack are high.
The risk factors for heart attacks are quite similar to risk factors for heart disease. Remember, your chance of having a heart attack increases with the number of risk factors you have.
Heart disease and heart attack risk factors include:
- Age (beginning at the age of 45 for men, and 55 for women)
- High cholesterol levels, also known as hypercholesterolemia (see Cholesterol and Heart Disease)
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (see Effects of High Blood Pressure)
- Diabetes (see Diabetes Complications)
- Being overweight or obese (see BMI Calculator)
- Not exercising
- Smoking cigarettes
- Having close relatives with heart disease at younger ages:
- Heart disease diagnosed before age 55 in father or brother
- Heart disease diagnosed before age 65 in mother or sister.
In addition, a separate heart attack risk factor is having a personal history of heart disease, such as:
- A previous heart attack
- Having had a surgical procedure (angioplasty, heart bypass) to increase blood flow to your heart.
(To determine your risk for a heart attack in the next 10 years, click Heart Attack Risk.)