by EBSCO Medical Review Board

A risk factor is something that raises your chances of getting a health problem. Some of these, such as family history or age, cannot be changed. Luckily, many can be.

These will help lower the risk of a heart attack:

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

Aim for a diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nuts. Learn how to swap foods that are bad for you for ones that are healthy. Start with snacks, then move onto meals. Focus on lean proteins such as fish or chicken. Aim for fish 2 times a week. It has omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart.

If you are overweight or obese, your doctor can help you lose weight safely. Plan to lose weight slowly so you can learn to keep your weight in the right range. A dietitian can teach you about portion sizing and meal planning.

Quit Smoking

Smoking is linked to a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Narrowed blood vessels make it harder for oxygen to get to the heart muscle, which can result in a heart attack.

Quitting smoking is the best way to put yourself on the right track. There are many programs that can help you quit. Try to stay away from other people's smoke as much as you can.

Drink Alcohol in Moderation

Moderation is 2 drinks or less a day for men and 1 drink or less a day for women. Drinking too much alcohol is linked to abnormal heart rhythms and other heart problems. Abnormal heart rhythms increase the risk of a heart attack.

Exercise Regularly

Regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, or using a stationary bike or treadmill, lowers the risk of a heart attack. It also helps with overall heart health. Exercise makes the heart stronger, eases the heart's workload, and lowers blood pressure. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week. Try to get more if you have a job where you spend most of the day sitting. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Daily Aspirin

Some people may can take an aspirin a day to lower the risk of a heart attack. This may not work for all people and it does carry risk. Talk to your doctor before taking daily aspirin.

Control Other Health Conditions

Certain health problems, are linked with a higher risk of heart disease or heart attack. While not all risk can be eliminated, controlling these problems greatly lower the risk of heart problems.

High Blood Pressure

Keep with your treatment plan for high blood pressure. Learn how to track your blood pressure at home. Changing how you eat, adding regular exercise, and using medicine can help you control your blood pressure. The DASH diet is designed to lower blood pressure.


Diabetes damages small blood vessels and causes plaque buildup in their walls. Controlling glucose can delay heart problems that can lead to a heart attack. If you have diabetes, work with your care team to keep glucose levels in a healthy range.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

OSAis marked by repeated airway blockage during sleep. OSA lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood and is linked to high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. OSA can be treated by using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or having surgery.


Cardiovascular disease prevention overview. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated February 22, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2019.

Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. American Heart Association website. Available at: Accessed March 27, 2019.

Hypertension alternative treatments. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated November 21, 2017. Accessed March 27, 2019.

ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated July 10, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2019.

12/15/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance . Ekelund U, Steene-Johannessen J, Brown WJ. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women. Lancet. 2016;388(10051):1302-1310.

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