Things that increase your risk of a heart attack are the things that lead to a problem called atherosclerosis , or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the starting point for heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Your doctor can help you find out your risk of having a heart attack. Knowing your risk is just the beginning for you and your doctor. Knowing your risk can help you and your doctor talk about whether you need to lower your risk. Together, you can decide what treatment is best for you.
Things that increase your risk of a heart attack include:
- High cholesterol.
- High blood pressure.
- A family history of early heart disease. Early heart disease means you have a male family member who was diagnosed before age 55 or a female family member who was diagnosed before age 65.
Your age, sex, and race can also raise your risk. For example, your risk increases as you get older.
Women and heart disease
See the topic Heart Disease and Stroke in Women: Reducing Your Risk for more information on risk, symptoms, and prevention of heart disease and stroke.
Most nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are used to relieve pain and fever and reduce swelling and inflammation, may increase the risk of heart attack. This risk is greater if you take NSAIDs at higher doses or for long periods of time. People who are older than 65 or who have existing heart, stomach, or intestinal disease are more likely to have problems. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Aspirin, unlike other NSAIDs, can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke. But taking aspirin isn't right for everyone, because it can cause serious bleeding. Talk to your doctor before you start taking aspirin every day.
Regular use of other NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, may make aspirin less effective in preventing heart attack and stroke.
For information on how to prevent a heart attack, see the Prevention section of this topic.