A person may be able to reduce their risk of experiencing a heart attack by managing their risk factors and living a heart-healthy lifestyle.
A heart attack, which doctors may call myocardial infarction, is a serious medical emergency. It
In the United States,
However, people can help reduce their risk of experiencing a heart attack by making lifestyle changes that can positively affect heart health and managing any existing health conditions.
This article explores risk factors for heart attack, tips to help prevent a heart attack, and when to contact a doctor.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Risk factors are traits or habits that can put a person at a higher risk of a heart attack. A person may be able to change some of these risk factors.
- overweight or obesity
- diets high in certain fats, cholesterol, and salt
- secondhand smoke exposure
- lack of exercise
- excessive alcohol consumption
Heart attack risk factors that people cannot modify include:
- Older age: The risk
increasesin males after age 45 and in females after age 55 or menopause.
- Sex: Males are
more likelyto experience heart attacks and may have them at a younger age, but females have a greater risk of dying from a heart attack.
- Genetics: A person whose parent, child, or sibling has a history of early cardiovascular disease has a higher risk of heart attack.
- Ethnicity and race: Mexican American, American Indian, native Hawaiian, and some Asian American people have a higher risk of heart disease. Black people have disproportionately high rates of severe high blood pressure, which may develop earlier in life and increase the risk of heart attack. Healthcare inequities may contribute to these disparities.
People may use the American Heart Association’s Check. Change. Control. Calculator to learn more about their risk for heart disease and stroke.
Alternatively, a person can learn more about their individual risk factors for heart attack by speaking with a healthcare professional.
A healthy diet may help a person
- fruits and vegetables
- plant-based proteins such as legumes and nuts
- whole grains
- lean and unprocessed animal protein
- low fat or nonfat dairy products
A person may use nutrition labels to
Following the recommendations of the
The guidelines recommend that adults perform at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week, as well as muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
Many people are living with conditions that put them at
- high cholesterol
- high blood sugar
- high blood pressure
A person should speak with their doctor about treating and managing any existing health conditions. People should also take any medications according to a doctor’s instructions and speak with their doctor about any side effects. A doctor may be able to recommend a different treatment if a person’s current treatment is not effective.
Overweight or obesity can
High body weight may cause
Smoking is a major cause of CVD and is responsible for
Quitting smoking benefits a person regardless of how long they have smoked. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that quitting smoking may reduce the risk of heart attack and death in those with existing disease by
People who do not smoke but have exposure to secondhand smoke at work or home have a
Experts recommend that adults limit alcohol to
Experts are still researching the link between stress and high blood pressure. However, stress
A person with existing health conditions that increase their risk of heart attack should speak with their doctor about the best ways to reduce their risk.
A heart attack is a medical emergency. People should immediately call 911 if they notice symptoms of a heart attack in themselves or others.
- chest pain or discomfort
- pain or discomfort in the back, neck, or jaw
- dizziness, weakness, or lightheadedness
- shortness of breath
- pain or discomfort radiating in one or both arms or shoulders
There are many ways to reduce the risk of a heart attack, such as exercising regularly, managing existing medical conditions, and maintaining a moderate weight. A person should speak with their doctor about possible risk factors and ways to manage them.
A person who notices symptoms of a heart attack should immediately call 911. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness.