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How Can a Heart Attack Be Prevented?

Lowering your risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) can help you prevent a heart attack. (For more information about risk factors, go to "Who Is at Risk for a Heart Attack?")

Even if you already have CHD, you can still take steps to lower your risk for a heart attack. These steps involve following a heart healthy lifestyle and getting ongoing care.

Heart Healthy Lifestyle

Following a healthy diet is an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugars.

For more information about following a healthy diet, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI's) Aim for a Healthy Weight Web site, "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart," and "Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH." All of these resources provide general information about healthy eating.

If you're overweight or obese, work with your doctor to create a reasonable weight-loss plan that involves diet and physical activity. Controlling your weight helps you control risk factors for CHD and heart attack.

Be as physically active as you can. Physical activity can improve your fitness level and your health. Talk with your doctor about what types of activity are safe for you.

For more information about physical activity, go to the Health Topics Physical Activity and Your Heart article and the NHLBI's "Your Guide to Physical Activity and Your Heart."

If you smoke, quit. Smoking can raise your risk of CHD and heart attack. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke. For more information about quitting smoking, go to the Health Topics Smoking and Your Heart article.


Ongoing Care

Treat Related Conditions

Treating conditions that make a heart attack more likely also can help lower your risk for a heart attack. These conditions may include:

  • High blood cholesterol. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to lower your cholesterol if diet and exercise aren't enough.
  • High blood pressure. You doctor may prescribe medicine to keep your blood pressure under control.
  • Diabetes (high blood sugar). If you have diabetes, try to control your blood sugar level through diet and physical activity (as your doctor recommends). If needed, take medicine as prescribed.

Have an Emergency Action Plan

Make sure that you have an emergency action plan in case you or someone in your family has a heart attack. This is very important if you're at high risk for a heart attack or have already had a heart attack.

Write down a list of medicines you are taking, medicines you are allergic to, your health care provider's phone numbers (both during and after office hours), and contact information for a friend or relative. Keep the list in a handy place to share in a medical emergency (for example, fill out this wallet card).

Talk with your doctor about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, when you should call 9–1–1, and steps you can take while waiting for medical help to arrive.

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Last Updated: December 17, 2013