10 Heart Attack Risk Factors
Preventing heart attacks
According to the American Heart Association, here are the leading factors that put you at risk for coronary artery disease or a heart attack.
If you know you're at higher risk of a heart attack due to circumstances beyond your control, pay closer attention to lifestyle factors you can change to cut your risk of heart attack.
More than 80% of people who die of heart disease are 65 or older. And it's not just men.
In fact, older women who have a heart attack are more likely to die within a few weeks of the attack than older men who have heart attacks.
Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women do, and they have attacks earlier in life. Even after menopause, when women's death rate from heart disease increases, it's not as great as men's.
That said, heart disease is still the leading cause of death among American women, far surpassing any type of cancer, says Richard Milani, MD, the vice chairman of cardiology at the Ochsner Health System in New Orleans. (You can read more about women's heart health to find out how to prevent heart attacks).
However, "if you do have a family history, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doomed to repeat the sins of your parents," says Dr. Milani, who is a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. While it could be genetic, it could also be that "they had a bad lifestyle that you don’t have, and that’s what really caused their heart problems." A healthy lifestyle, regular check-ups, and keeping a lookout for symptoms can help.
For example, African Americans are at greater risk of high blood pressure, which may be one reason they are also more likely to experience heart problems, he says.
Smoking "is truly one of the worst, if not the worst, risk factor because it impacts so many things," says Dr. Milani. It injures the arteries, contributes to cholesterol problems, and raises the risk of blood clots. "It's the ultimate devil," he adds.
Still not convinced it’s time to quit? Here are 97 other reasons.
Roughly 34 million Americans today have cholesterol levels that could lead to heart problems; as fit and healthy as some might appear, if their total cholesterol is rising, so is their risk of heart disease.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure can be controlled with medication. Things like losing weight, becoming more active, easting less salt, and drinking less alcohol, can all help to a lower blood pressure.
(Here are 10 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure.)
About 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week could greatly reduce your risk, but any activity is better than none.
Here’s how safe, moderate exercise can keep your heart healthy and potentially save your life.
People who have excess body fat—especially around the midsection—are more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke even if they have no other risk factors.
The good news is that there are many simple foods that are good for your heart and your waistline.
Dr. Milani recommends eating a "Mediterranean diet, which has been proven to highly reduce the recurrence of heart attacks." That means eating plenty of fish, fruit, vegetables and healthy fats, like olive oil.
"Diabetic women are at the highest risk of getting into trouble with heart disease compared to all other groups," says Dr. Milani. "Diabetes narrows the arteries, and womenby virtue of their size differencealready have smaller arteries than their male counterparts, in general."
Luckily the same steps that help diabetesexercise and healthy eatingcan also lower heart risk.