ARE YOU AT RISK FOR A HEART ATTACK?

Blood pressure, stress, age and other factors you should know about, and more importantly, how you can manage them.

 

YOUR HEART HEALTH:

ARE YOU AT RISK FOR A HEART ATTACK?

Key Takeaways

YOU CAN CONTROL SOME RISKS

The more you know about managing stress, blood pressure, cholesterol and other controllable heart attack risk factors, the more you’re living the heart-healthy way.



SOME RISKS ARE OUT OF YOUR CONTROL

There are some unavoidable risk factors for a heart attack – age and family history, for example. Still, it’s good to know what they are and discuss them with your doctor.

    Smoking

    Smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease. However, your risk for heart disease and stroke can be cut in half in just one year if you quit.

    Lack of Physical Activity

    People who exercise moderately or rigorously regularly reduce their heart disease risk by 30 to 40 percent and their stroke risk by 25 percent. For each hour of regular exercise you get, you gain about two hours of life. Aim for a reachable goal such as 30 minutes of exercise a day. Get help finding a routine you'll stick with.

    Being Overweight

    If you're overweight, your risk is higher - but losing as few as 10-20 pounds can lower your heart disease risk. Read these tips on how to get exercise that doesn't feel like exercise.

    A Fatty, Salty or Sugary Diet

    A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, cholesterol, and sodium increases your risk of heart attack and clot-related (ischemic) stroke. Try adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate, while cutting back on processed foods and foods fried in oil. Decrease your portion size and be sure to drink lots of water. Learn about Heart Healthy Foods You Can Actually Enjoy.

    High LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

    LDL cholesterol clogs your arteries and puts you at risk. While genetics impacts your LDL number, so does a lack of exercise and a diet high in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol. Try eating more fiber and fish, and check out other heart healthy foods you might learn to love to help lower your cholesterol.

    High Blood Pressure

    High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. If you have high blood pressure, it can be managed by adopting a diet low in salt, saturated fats, cholesterol and alcohol. Physical activity, weight loss and stress management are also key in lowering your blood pressure.

    Stress

    When you think about stress, heart attack may not be the immediate connection you make. But the truth is that mental stress damages the protective lining of blood vessels, potentially causing inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the arteries. This can increase your risk of a heart attack.

    “If you have a lot of stress in your life, it causes your blood pressure to go up and your heart rate to go up. When you're laughing, you release good hormones that make your blood vessels open up. We've been promoting this for a long time,” says cardiologist Annabelle Volgman, medical director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, and member of the WomenHeart Scientific Advisory Council.

    Diabetes

    Even if your glucose levels are under control, diabetes doubles your risk of heart disease. With diabetes, it's important to monitor other risk factors. Improving your diet, losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and taking medications can make a big difference. Learn more about managing heart disease risks as a diabetic.

    Age

    Both young and old people have heart attacks, so heart attacks and age aren’t necessarily related. But age is a risk factor. The incidence of certain heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, increases with age.

    Family History

    If anyone in your family has had heart disease, you have a higher risk – but lifestyle still plays a role. For example, if your family member had a heart attack due to risk factors such as a poor diet or smoking, and you have a healthy lifestyle, your risk may be different.

    Gender

    While heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, there are some key differences between genders. Women tend to experience heart attacks about 10 years later in life than men. Also, women are twice as likely as men to die within the first few weeks after suffering a heart attack.

    Race/Ethnicity

    African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and some Asians or Pacific Islanders all have a higher risk of heart attack. However, much like family history, treating or controlling the risks you can by making heart-healthy lifestyle choices plays a big role in helping manage your own specific risk levels.

    Aspirin regimen products for recurrent heart attack prevention

    Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen.

    HEART ATTACK SURVIVOR STORIES

    elderly woman smiling

    BETTY B

    "I am thankful for each day and the opportunities it brings to share my experiences with others."

    READ MORE >
    older male with young child

    KEN L

    "I’ve changed my diet to minimize fat and salt. I’m learning to read labels and make healthy choices."

    READ MORE >
    elderly woman smiling

    CINDY B

    "It all comes down to listening – the cardiologists listening to us, and not just with their stethoscopes – and us listening to the cardiologists. Without both of these, there are no winners!"

    READ MORE >
    middle aged man with sunglasses and baseball cap

    RANDY W

    "I now take a low dose Bayer Aspirin regimen, and I was told that the aspirin I was given during my heart attack helped save my life! Thanks for being there for me Bayer!"

    READ MORE >

    This tool is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, medical advice, or medical treatment. Contact your healthcare provider after using the tool to discuss your heart health or if you have any health concerns.

    Estimated risk of a cardiovascular event, specifically, the risk of a heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI) or stroke in the next five years.