The risk of heart attack is a common health concern for many Americans, because so many people have heart attacks each year. Luckily – we know a lot about what causes heart attacks, including the kinds of things people can do for themselves to lower their heart attack risk. Many of the health and lifestyle factors associated with heart attacks can be easily controlled with a little will power and a positive, healthy attitude toward daily life.
People can substantially lower their risk of heart attack by making the following lifestyle changes:
- Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Cut down on fats, especially saturated fats, which are primarily found in animal foods such as meat and whole-milk dairy products. Some vegetable fats, such as palm oil and coconut milk or oil, are also saturated.
- Restrict the intake of cholesterol, which is found in animal foods, including butter, egg yolks, whole-milk dairy products, meat, poultry and fish.
- Eat a varied diet that gets 50 to 60 percent of its calories from whole grains, vegetables, fruits and whole-grain breads and pastas.
- Exercise regularly. Maintain a healthy weight.
- And learn to manage stress.
The risk of heart attack can also be affected by a person’s age, sex, family history, medical history and other health and environmental factors. The best way to protect yourself against a heart attack is to know your personal risk factors and to tailor your lifestyle changes to suit your particular medical needs. For more information on your personal risk of heart attack, see your healthcare provider. If you need additional advice on maintaining good nutrition or a healthy exercise program, contact a local hospital or health agency for specific information and referrals to support groups and other medical specialists.