Most Heart Attacks are caused by coronary artery disease (CAD). You can help prevent a heart attack by knowing about your risk factors for CAD and heart attack and taking action to lower your risks.
You can lower your risk of having a heart attack, even if you have already had a heart attack or are told that your chances of having a heart attack are high.
To prevent a heart attack, you will most likely need to make lifestyle changes. You may also need to get treatment for conditions that raise your risk.
Make Lifestyle Changes
You can lower your risk for CAD and a heart attack by making healthy lifestyle choices:
- Eat a healthy diet to prevent or reduce high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, and maintain a healthy weight
- If you smoke, quit
- Exercise as directed by your doctor
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
Treat Related Conditions
In addition to making lifestyle changes, you can help prevent heart attacks by treating conditions you have that make a heart attack more likely:
- High blood cholesterol. If you have High cholesterol, follow your doctor’s advice about lowering your cholesterol. Take medications to lower your cholesterol as directed.
- High blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about keeping your blood pressure under control. Take blood pressure medications as directed.
- High blood sugar (diabetes). If you have diabetes, follow your doctor’s advice about keeping your blood sugar levels under control. Take medications as directed.
Prevent a Second Heart Attack
If you have already had a heart attack, it is very important to follow your doctor’s advice to prevent a second heart attack:
- Make lifestyle changes as directed
- Take your medications as directed
- Follow any other treatment recommended by your doctor, such as cardiac rehabilitation.
By taking these steps, you can prevent or reduce the chance of another heart attack and related complications, such as heart failure.
Make sure that you have an emergency action plan in case you have signs of a second heart attack. Talk to your doctor about making your plan, and talk with your family about it. The plan should include:
- The signs and symptoms of a heart attack
- Instructions for the prompt use of aspirin and nitroglycerin
- How to access emergency medical services in your community (most people dial 9-1-1)
- The location of the nearest hospital that offers 24-hour emergency heart care.
Remember, the symptoms of a second heart attack may not be the same as those of a first heart attack. If in doubt, call 9-1-1.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD