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Heart Attack and Unstable Angina - What Increases Your Risk

Things that increase your risk of a heart attack are the things that lead to a problem called atherosclerosis camera.gif, 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.
  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.
  • 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

Women have unique risk factors for heart disease, including hormone therapy and pregnancy-related problems. These things can raise a woman's risk for a heart attack or stroke.

See the topic Women and Coronary Artery Disease for more information on risk, symptoms, and prevention of heart disease.

NSAIDs

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, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. But it also carries the risks of serious stomach and intestinal bleeding as well as skin reactions. 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.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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