Who Is At Risk for a Heart Attack?
Certain risk factors make it more likely that you will develop coronary artery disease (CAD) and have a heart attack. Some risk factors for heart attack can be controlled, while others can't.
Major risk factors for heart attack that you can control include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Overweight and obesity
- Physical inactivity
- Diabetes (high blood sugar)
Risk factors that you can't change include:
- Age. Risk increases for men older than 45 years and for women older than 55 years (or after menopause).
- Family history of early CAD. Your risk increases if your father or a brother was diagnosed with CAD before 55 years of age, or if your mother or a sister was diagnosed with CAD before 65 years of age.
Certain CAD risk factors tend to occur together. When they do, it’s called metabolic syndrome. In general, a person with metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone without metabolic syndrome.
Reducing the risk of heart attack usually means making healthy lifestyle choices. You also may need treatment for medical conditions that raise your risk.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Healthy lifestyle choices to help prevent heart attack include:
- Following a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Pay careful attention to the amounts and types of fat in your diet. Lower your salt intake. These changes can help lower high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
- Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese.
- Quitting smoking.
- Doing physical activity to improve heart fitness. Ask your doctor how much and what kinds of physical activity are safe for you.
Treat Related Conditions
In addition to making lifestyle changes, you can help prevent heart attacks by treating conditions you have that make a heart attack more likely:
- High blood cholesterol. You may need medicine to lower your cholesterol if diet and exercise aren’t enough.
- High blood pressure. You may need medicine to keep your blood pressure under control.
- Diabetes (high blood sugar).
- If you have diabetes, control your blood sugar levels through diet and physical activity (as your doctor recommends). If needed, take medicine as prescribed.