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Understanding Heart Attack: Prevention

Coronary artery disease is a major risk factor for heart attacks. Here's how to reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attack:

  • Quit smoking. Smoking is a major cause of heart disease. Work with your doctor to develop a plan to quit. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure, called hypertension, significantly increases your risk of heart disease and heart attack. To lower blood pressure, try to eat a heart-healthy diet and engage in regular physical activity. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help.
  • Control diabetes. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease. If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to control your blood sugar levels.
  • Improve your cholesterol. If you don't know your cholesterol numbers, now is the time to find out.
    • High levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease.
    • High levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol protect against heart disease.
    • High levels of total cholesterol also increase your risk of heart disease.

Cholesterol levels can be improved with exercise and a healthy diet low in unhealthy fats and alcohol. If these strategies don't work, your doctor can prescribe medications.

Understanding Heart Attacks

Find out more about heart attacks:



Diagnosis and Treatment


  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and being overweight are major risk factors for a host of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Exercise and a healthy diet can help, but some people might want to work with a doctor or a dietitian to help them get to a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly. Studies show that regular exercise can prevent heart disease, slow down the progression of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels.
  • Eat right. You are what you eat. Try to eat less trans fat and increase your intake of omega-3 fats such as those found in salmon. Try to eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce stress. Practice a relaxation technique such as yoga or meditation, and take time out every day for a few quiet minutes to unwind and appreciate life.
  • Get social support. Stay in touch with friends and family. Research shows that people with poor social support are more vulnerable to heart disease.
  • Manage anger. Seek ways to control feelings of anger and hostility; these emotions may add to heart attack risk.
  • Ask about aspirin. Talk with your doctor about taking an aspirin daily. Studies have shown that this regimen significantly reduces the risk of heart attack in some people.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on March 26, 2014

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