How to Prevent a Heart Attack

How to Prevent a Heart Attack

The best way to survive a heart attack is to never have one. How can you prevent becoming one of the millions of Americans who suffer a heart attack?

There is actually a lot you can do to protect your heart. Knowing the risks and symptoms of heart disease is a good start.

Key risk factors for heart disease are:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Unhealthy body weight
  • Poor diet
  • Too much alcohol
  • Lack of physical activity

Age is also a risk factor. Your risk for heart disease goes up as you age. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death in people 65 and older.

Make Healthy Changes

There are lifestyle choices and changes you can make to lower your risk. When you control your risk factors, you help protect your heart. It’s easy to get started. Here are a few ideas.

Eat healthy meals. Include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Enjoy fish at least twice a week. Limit fatty meats, butter and cheese that are high in saturated fat. Limit packaged and processed foods, and read food labels to watch out for added sugar and salt.

Add exercise to your life. Take a brisk 10-minute walk three times a day, 5 days a week.

If you smoke, quit. Make a plan to quit, then set a date to start. Get help at

Talk with your health care provider. Ask about lifestyle, exercise and dietary changes you can make to cut your risks. Follow your doctor's advice and take your medicines as directed.

Remember, You're Not Alone

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease that can lead to a heart attack.

While some heart attacks are sudden and intense, others can start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Often people aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help.

Know the Warning Signs

Pay attention to any of the following warnings of a possible heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
  • Feeling weak, light-headed or faint
  • Pain in arms or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea (an extra symptom in women)

If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 right away. Quick action helps save lives.

Sources: Coronary  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021; Heart Attack Symptoms, Risk, and Recovery,   CDC, 2022; Heart Disease Fact Sheet  CDC, 2022; Leading Causes of Death by Age Group, United States 2020  CDC; Lifestyle Changes for Heart Failure  American Heart Association, 2017.
Important Plan Information 

Originally published 3/27/2019; Revised 2021, 2022