Heart Attack

Lowering Your Risk

Lowering your risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) can help you prevent a heart attack. Even if you already have CHD or have already had a heart attack, you can still take steps to lower your risk. These steps involve following a heart healthy lifestyle and getting ongoing care for conditions that raise your risk.

Heart Healthy Lifestyle Changes

You can make these lifestyle changes to lower your risk of having a heart attack.

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be as physically active as you can.
  • Follow a heart healthy diet.
  • Manage stress.

(Watch the video to learn about following a heart healthy lifestyle. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner of the video screen. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

If you smoke, quit. Smoking can raise your risk of CHD and heart attack and worsen other CHD risk factors. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke. Get quit smoking tips at Quitting Smoking for Older Adults.

Maintain a healthy weight. 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 coronary heart disease (CHD) and heart attack. Learn more at Aim for a Healthy Weight.

Be as physically active as you can. Physical activity can lower many risk factors for CHD, including LDL (“bad” cholesterol), high blood pressure, and excess weight. It can also lower your risk for diabetes and raise your HDL (“good” cholesterol). Talk with your doctor about what types of activity are safe for you. Learn more at Go4LIfe®, the exercise and physical activity campaign for older adults from the National Institute on Aging.

Follow a heart healthy diet. Following a healthy diet is an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet to prevent or reduce high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, and to maintain a healthy weight.

A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. You should avoid eating a lot of red meat, palm and coconut oils, and sugary foods and beverages. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugars. It also limits how much alcohol you drink. Get tips on healthy eating at you get older.

Manage stress. An emotionally upsetting event, especially one involving anger, can trigger a heart attack. Learn how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems to improve physical and emotional health. Consider activities such as a stress management program, meditation, physical activity, and talking things out with friends or family.

For More Information About Healthy Eating

For more information about following a healthy diet, go to

In addition, a variety of heart healthy recipes to help you plan meals is available at Aim for a Healthy Weight. All of these resources provide general information about healthy eating.

Treatment for Related Conditions

Get treatment for related conditions that make having a heart attack more likely.

  • If you have high blood cholesterol, follow your doctor's advice about lowering it. Take medications to lower your cholesterol as directed if diet and exercise aren't enough.
  • If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice about keeping it under control. Take blood pressure medications as directed.
  • If you have diabetes, sometimes called high blood sugar, try to control your blood sugar level through diet and physical activity (as your doctor recommends). If needed, take medicine as prescribed.