Risks

8 Ways to Lower Your Risk of a Heart Attack

Lisa Nelson Mar 26th, 2012 (updated Sep 13th, 2016)
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If you want to take action and reduce your risk of developing heart disease there are several controllable risk factors.

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Stop smoking
Stop smoking

If you smoke, your risk of developing heart disease is 2-4 times higher than a nonsmoker. You've doubled your risk of having a heart attack if you smoke a pack of cigarettes per day. This applies to you if you smoke cigars or pipes even though cigarette smokers are in the highest risk category. Nonsmokers also must be aware of the dangers and increased risk if you are exposed to second hand smoke.

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Curb high cholesterol
Curb high cholesterol

This applies to you if you have an elevated total cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and/or low HDL cholesterol. (There are exceptions to the rule. If you lead a healthy, active lifestyle and your levels are elevated work with your physician to investigate further with a comprehensive lipid panel to determine if you are at increased risk for heart disease or not.)

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Control high blood pressure
Control high blood pressure

High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder leading to an enlarged, stiff heart. This causes the heart to not function efficiently and increases heart attack risk. As we go through these controllable risk factors remember that living with more than one risk factor increases your risk that much more. If you combine high blood pressure with obesity and high cholesterol levels your heart attack risk increases drastically.

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Exercise
Exercise

Being physically active prevents heart disease and helps you manage blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and your weight. If you are physically inactive your risk for heart disease is increased.

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Fight obesity
Fight obesity

Like high blood pressure, obesity causes the heart to work harder which increases your heart disease risk even if you have no other risk factors. Being obese also contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

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Control diabetes
Control diabetes

Diabetes, whether well-controlled or not, greatly increases your risk of developing heart disease. If you have diabetes it's important to work with your physician to ensure your diabetes is under control.

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Decrease stress levels
Decrease stress levels

Living with high levels of stress can impact heart disease risk. Some individuals cope with stress by overeating, smoking, or smoking more than they normally would.

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Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

Consuming excess alcohol can increase blood pressure, elevate triglycerides, and lead to weight gain which can all result in an increased risk for heart disease. Consuming a moderate amount of alcohol has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Moderate amounts equal one drink for men and two drinks for men per day.