Prevent Heart Attack

10 Ways You Can Help Prevent a Heart Attack

Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. For those over 65 years of age, the risk is even greater: eight out of ten people who die of heart disease are 65 or older. Although these statistics sound dire, take heart: With these strategies, you can help your loved ones reduce their risk -- and reduce your own at the same time.

1. Know the early warning signs and seek treatment right away.

Some typical symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (skipped beats or a racing or pounding heart)
  • Leg swelling
  • Bluish skin color (cyanosis)
  • A prolonged, unexplained cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Persistent fatigue or feeling unwell
  • Passing out

But sometimes the symptoms aren't so obvious. The pain of a heart attack may feel like really bad heartburn or even the flu. And the symptoms of a second heart attack may not be the same as those for the first. If you or someone close to you has already had a heart attack, don't hesitate to seek emergency medical treatment at the first sign of possible trouble.

2. Talk to the doctor about medications that might increase risk.

Hormone replacement therapy, rosiglitazone (for diabetes), and COX-2 inhibitors (for controlling arthritis pain) are all examples of medications that may increase the risk of heart attack. Review all medications with a doctor and ask if there are less risky alternatives.


More Heart Attack Prevention Tips

3. Control blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack. If your loved one has been diagnosed with prehypertension (120/80 mm Hg to 139/89 mm Hg) or hypertension (140/90 mm Hg or higher), his blood pressure should be treated. The doctor will prescribe the appropriate medications, but his blood pressure needs regular monitoring. Although it can be a bit tricky to use, an inexpensive manual cuff (starting at about $12 at your local drugstore) is a great way to monitor blood pressure at home. But if you can't get the hang of it, you may want to consider investing in a blood pressure machine. The machine is a bit more expensive (between $70 and $150); it's also available at your local drugstore.

4. Keep "bad" cholesterol levels low.

Another major risk factors for heart attack is a high bloodstream level of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol. Ideally, total cholesterol should be no more than 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter), and no more than five times the level of HDL or "good" cholesterol; LDL levels should be below 70 mg/dL. Make sure cholesterol levels are checked regularly and treated if necessary. Following a low-fat diet and exercising regularly may help, but it might not be enough. If cholesterol levels don't respond to lifestyle changes, medication might be necessary.

5. Make sure diabetes is under control.

Three out of four people with diabetes will eventually die of some type of heart or blood vessel disease. But by keeping blood sugar under control and taking any recommended medications, a diabetic can reduce his risk. If you can your loved ones are lucky enough not to have diabetes, it's important to avoid developing the disease by exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.

6. Follow a heart-healthy diet.

The American Heart Association offers specific dietary guidelines for reducing the risk of heart attack. The best bet is a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, lean meats, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. A good rule of thumb: Limit daily intake of fat (total fat between 25 and 35 percent of daily calories, saturated fat less than 7 percent, and trans fat less than 1 percent), cholesterol (less than 200 milligrams per day if LDL levels are high, less than 300 milligrams per day if they aren't), and sodium (less than 1,500 milligrams per day for high blood pressure, less than 2,300 milligrams per day otherwise). Women should consume no more than one alcoholic beverage per day, men no more than two. And all adults should each eat 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber every day.

More on Preventing Heart Attack

7. Encourage regular exercise.

Exercise is essential for general cardiovascular health and is key to preventing a heart attack. But how much exercise is enough? The Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association recommend accumulating at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days a week on most days. This doesn't mean you and your loved ones need to do half an hour of aerobics five days a week; instead, aim for short bursts of activity throughout the day. Just parking farther away from the store and walking the extra distance, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can quickly add up. But before beginning any exercise program, be sure to talk to a doctor about any restrictions you or your loved ones may have.

8. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for heart disease. The best way to determine whether you or your loved ones are overweight or obese is to calculate body mass index, or BMI. You can calculate BMI at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website. People with a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 are considered overweight; people with a BMI of 30.0 or greater are considered obese. If you or someone close to you meets either of these criteria, talk to a doctor about setting safe weight-loss goals. The best way to lose weight is by limiting calories and increasing activity, but if that approach is unsuccessful, counseling or even medical intervention may be necessary.

9. Stop smoking.

Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for heart attack. If you or your loved ones smoke, quitting can reduce risk of heart attack by 50 percent or more. But recognize that stopping smoking isn't easy. Here are a few ways you can help those close to you:

  • Ask them what they think would make it easier for them. They may have suggestions you haven't thought of.
  • Encourage them to talk about their feelings and what they're going through. Smoking may be a comforting lifelong habit; let them mourn a little.
  • You may be tempted to nag or yell if they slip up, but it's more effective to remind them that you love them no matter what. Be positive and encouraging -- and vent your frustration to a friend instead.
  • Help them avoid situations that trigger the desire for a smoke. If they're used to enjoying a cigarette after meals, try going for a short walk outside instead.
  • Be understanding as they go through withdrawal symptoms. Try not to take it personally if they're especially irritable, short-tempered, and tired.
  • Quit smoking yourself. If you must smoke, don't smoke around your loved ones. Not only will it make quitting more difficult for them, but the secondhand smoke will increase their risk of heart attack.

If your loved ones find it too difficult to quit on their own, talk to their doctor. Nicotine replacement therapy, support groups, and counseling may all be helpful.

10. Manage stress and depression.

Your loved ones' emotional and psychological state can have a very real effect on their physical health. An important aspect of maintaining good cardiovascular health and avoiding heart attack is minimizing stress, anger, and depression. If one of your parents live alone, for example, he or she may feel disconnected and alone. Encourage him or her to get out, make new friends, or simply engage in stimulating activities. A local church or community center is an excellent place to connect with other older adults.

Perhaps someone close to you is already a social butterfly but still seems to be having difficulty with his mood. Try these stress-busting strategies:

  • Cut back on caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
  • Try meditation or yoga.
  • Play relaxing music.
  • Go for a walk outdoors.

If you've tried everything and still feel concerned about a loved one's mood, talk to his doctor. Depression is a serious but treatable illness.

Stephanie Trelogan

Stephanie Trelogan writes about heart disease, stroke, and depression issues that concern people caring for their aging parents. See full bio

almost 2 years, said...

I have suffered from the heart attack in Feb 2009, I am taking my medication regular base as per my doctor advice, I would like to prevent myself from the second possible heart attacked. I need professional advice to continue my normal life.

over 3 years, said...

Yes, I have high blood pressure and the doctors are having issues keeping it "normal" but lately I have experiences shoulder/upper back pain on my left side. After reading this article, I feel I need to alert my physicans of this new problem.

almost 4 years, said...

I truly appreciate this information ! I am a high risk for it all ! All these signs are a big problem in my family. Please read all of this information. It could just save a life or your own.

almost 4 years, said...

I have had some of these symptoms and intend to discuss all my medications with my cardiologist. I have already had a stress test and am now preparing to have an ultrasound and echocardiogram to fully test the health of my heart and circulation. But I have not discussed the effects of the various medications I am on that may be causing side effects.

almost 4 years, said...

I'vebeen having about 5 of the heart problems symptoms for some time, some are worse than others. My doctor seems to be taking things slow and I,m getting irritated. I have a cough that scares people when they hear it, and look at me like I,m contagious, or going to drop dead. I have had a chest pain above my left breast, then @ the side of the left breast, by the arm, is very tender, feels like I,m menstruating, but I,m 60years old. Thes two pressures are exaborated when lying down. Sometimes when I,m talking I have to stop and take another breath to finish a sentence. I walk my dog around the block for him to relieve himself, this use to be a piece of cake, now I,m half way home and feeling like the block will never end. When I take my socks off at night the tops of the socks that keep them up leave an indentation ring around each leg. I baught a pair of new sneakers in mid Feb., and now, March-April they are tight, and my toe tips hurt when I take them off. When I go up my 5 stairs, into the house, I feel like I have to get a crane to hoist them up. This is rediculas. At night, I will ly peacefully in bed and for no reason I know, my heart wants to beat faster,harder, and at times it will just radiate a buzzing-humming feeling, like when we were kids, we had "hand buzzards," they were more intense than what I feel, but it nonetheless, feels out of control, because I feel like I,m at the mercy of my heart, and it has a mind of it's own. I love to sing, and also in church, but I,m now left high and dry when everyone is still singing the ending of a verse, and I have no more air. I already sleep with my upper half propped up a bit because I have a corodid artery tumor (paraganglioma) on my left nect jugular which has now grown up into my left ear. (This is the little tumor in 2005 that the doc was going to keep an "eye" on, which he did and did and did, and of course, he will not operate because it would be life I sapose to hear a drum and cymbol?) My father's side of the family have been slathered with these tumors, my brother died on the operating table having these tumors removed for the 2nd time, the heart was removed, and he was put on a machine, these tumors can be very slow growing, or they grow right back. I,ve have 2 very tricky operations by the vegas nerves. Lately, I had my thyroid removed Nov 7th 2013, they final diagnosis, not specifically noduals, which were there, but diagnosis of PARA! go figure, so I asked my ENT surgeon, could the tumor on my left neck grow downwards into my lungs? "Oh, no." Just on the back of my thyroid where he said, "Is impossible, there's no vessels there!" He acted like this was fun stuff! I have to read advise on the computer to figure out what the doctors are not doing before I,m no longer looking towards my 60th birthday in July. Can anyone give me clues. I will say, my doc had me do an oxygen sleep test@ my home. Now he wants me to do a sleep test. I already told him I know I,m not getting enough air. I get out og bed in the morning yawning for the next 3 hours. I go to bed, crash, I,m breathing heavy and fast, waiting for that to stop. Then the buzzing. I sleep for about 3 hours, a dead sleep. I always wake up @ 3ish, and pretty much "think" I,m sleeping, but it's getting to be a very bad play. Anything you can supply for me to assimilate would be heartwarming. THANK YOU.Ritamarie Smith

about 4 years, said...

I'm on a lot of medications and I will have my doctor go over them and see if any of them could increase the risk of heart disease, since it runs in my family.

about 4 years, said...


about 4 years, said...

Hello, I'm sorry you've encountered some difficulty in printing one or more our articles. Here are quick instructions for printing articles on 1. Look to the left side of any article page for the social action bar. 2. At the bottom of the social action bar is an icon and link to print. Click that icon and link, and then follow the prompts for printing. If you are still having issues printing articles after following these instructions above, or need any additional assistance with your account, please don't hesitate to be in touch using the blue feedback tab on the right side of this pate. I'll be happy to help!

about 4 years, said...

I tried to save the whole article which was amaszing, but only for page three came out,, How can i get the whole article again. I need to forward it one to people thank you karalena2@AOL.COM

over 4 years, said...

great news

over 4 years, said...

Hello, For those who would like to print out an article, there is a print button on the left side of the page in the social action bar. There is not need to copy and paste. If you are having difficulties with this option, please let us know by using the blue feedback button on the right side of the page.

over 4 years, said...

I wish you would add a "Print" format for this. Otherwise, we have to copy and paste each page.

over 4 years, said...

I have been struggling with high blood pressure and finding the right combo of medications to keep it down for about a year now. It seems to be such a hard thing to do. I know I need to keep trying to get on the right meds for my high BP but I have been prescribed beta blockers and they interfere with anti depressants that I desperately need. Anyone out there found an antidepressant that works well with BP meds including beta blockers?

over 4 years, said...

I am so sick of being sick.. I really think what I have is a heart problem after reading this ariticle... but according to the hmo doctors I see.. there is not really anything wrong. I have almost all these symptoms. From swollen legs feet and abdomen (over 10 years now they give me lasix to help with this), pain in my chest and out my back, sleep apna tht isn't being helped by CPAP, etc. Im so frustrated I could scream. how do you find a doctor that will actually help you get well? and believe you when you talk? My family is tired of picking me up off the floor when my legs give out from tying to do anything. I struggle to breathe sometimes it scares the heck out of my family. I have been short of breath now for about 7 years.. and about 9 months ago it got really really bad..still is. I have given up my whole life just about because of this sickness. I sang solos and duets, and even in the church choir for around 15 years... then had to give it up in 2006 because the shortness of breath got to bad, I couldn't hold notes properly. This really hurt me emotionally, singing to God and people was a part of my ministry. I can still teach at church or help out there,.. but the weakness and shortness of breath is sooo hard to deal with when I want to sing and run the youth choir again, but I just can't. I have no energy and have such a scratchy throat I sound like I have laringitis sometimes.. 9 months and still no relief from doctors. Any ideas over what to do would be so helpful. I have so much to do for God... I want to be well to do it.

over 4 years, said...

try to read and follow this

over 4 years, said...

This was very helpful. Especially since going to my heart doctor has bee too costly. I do see a GP.

over 4 years, said...

Why isn't Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm listed. See This is a hereditary heart condition.

over 4 years, said...

information was too helpful ..........

almost 5 years, said...


almost 5 years, said...

i don't think coughing up blood is a sign of heart disease- lung disease yes. Also nausea wasn't mentioned as a possible heart attack symptom and it should be.

almost 5 years, said...

All the article was helpful

almost 5 years, said...

my daughter passed away at age 28 massive heart attack, symptoms there pain in left arm and chest, and the Dr said it was acid reflux goes to show that Dr`s need to catch wake no matter what age you are in todays lifestyle and stress anybody can have a heart attack

about 5 years, said...

The entire article was excellent

about 5 years, said...

I had been infected with MRSA,and when I went into the ER at my local hospital,the DR. lanced a small sist like boil on my forearm,after which I was to report to the clinic to have the wound cleaned and raped,as i did for the following week,but then my back started to ache and my feet started to swell,I returned to the ER,they said every thing was normal,I ask if they had got the results from the culture they took from my arm,they said they would find out,a couple days later my left knee started to swell,(I had been seen prior thinking I may of broken my knee but the same ER. said I tore my ACL and was waiting to be approved for surgery) I went to the ER. and they drained my knee,took another culture,the next day it was swollen and very painful again,this went on for six weeks,I returned several time's to the ER but was always tood every thing was fine,they gave me a shot for pain and sent me home,until they called and needed me to come to the hospital ASAP,at this point I could not walk,could only take short breath's,I felt like this was the end of my life,when I arrived at the ER.someone got me out of the car into a wheel chair and took me to a bed,the DR. sent my wife home to get all my meds. I remember looking up at the ceiling,I saw these large yellow spots on it,I ask the DR. about it he said there was none on the ceiling,he rolled me into e-ray and back to the room,when my wife arrived she ask the DR. what was going on,there was blood all over the bed and floor,he replied,I couldn't a blood vein,so he took blood from my jugular vein,my wife ask what was it that was wrong with me,he said he didn't know, but he thought I had some thing only a dog could get(I have the hospital reports that state's the same thing),the hospital was looking for another hospital to send me too,I was taken to another hospital,their we found out I had MRSA,I was in that hospital for one week until I was sent to Stanford Hospital where I stayed for two more months,during this whole time I had a stroke,kidney failure,I went blind in my right eye due to the infection,my heart valves were damaged,my temp went to 108,blood pressure went through the roof,my lungs were full of blood clots and both lungs was black with pneumonia,the DR. there said I had only ten percent chance of living,then my right arm had swollen to the point that it couldn't get any larger,so they took me to operate on it but it burst in the operating room,leaving me with a scar from my shoulder to my elbow,after leaving the hospital I kept returning twice a month to Stanford Hospital until my labs were normal,that's where I was told that I was going to loose my left leg,it seems the infection had gotten in side the bones,due to ,what I was told was a tore ACL,was in fact two fractures in my knee,this has been a long road,taken over a year to be able to learn to walk again,but it has be just over five years sense I was released from the hospital,and my stay at the hospital was not alone,you see my wife an daughter stayed on a cought,right there beside me,even though I was quarantined,they stayed through it all,I am disabled now,but I kept my leg,still broken,but I still have it,and my feet do swell up,they have ever sense the doctor I go to now took me off the Furosemide,first I was taken 80mg. twice a day,the ny DR.lowered me to 40mg once a day,now refuses to refill them due to me not being able to pay for my last office visit,she changed all my meds before looking at my blood work,I know this because I had my blood drawn ten min. after my visit with her,I can't afford to go to the Doctor's office very much now but I am sure happy to be alive despite the odds,God must have a plan for me some where

about 5 years, said...

Important Information. Great reminders of these killer conditions.

over 5 years, said...

About a low fat diet. Know this, my grandmother weighed over 200 lbs and was only 5' tall. She died at age 96. My father ate greasy food, and bacon every day of his life, and he smoked and lived to also be 96. The Irish eat about 6000 calories a day of cheese, eggs, butter, and milk and live to be in their late 90s. I don't think for a second that animal fat has anything to do with making a person sick or unhealthy. I think its about genetics, and not one kind of diet works for everyone. We are our genetics and we are not all alike.