For most of us, reducing our risk of heart disease means adopting behaviors long known to keep a heart healthy:
- Eating heart-healthy food
- Being physically active
- Not smoking
- Maintaining an appropriate weight
The DASH and Mediterranean diets have both proven effective as heart-healthy. Learning how to manage stress is also important because long-term stress can contribute to unhealthy behaviors, increase blood pressure and may independently cause heart attacks.
Control of risk factors with lifestyle change, and sometimes with medications like statins, can reduce the risk of heart attacks.
For some people with specific genetic conditions, like familial hypercholesterolemia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the effect of their genes tends to dominate the effect of environment, although environment continues to play a role.
For people without such a strong genetic component, a family history of heart disease may still provide clues. Some drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamines, and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, can also damage the heart.
Other medical conditions, like diabetes and sleep apnea, can also raise your risk for heart disease, so finding good care for those conditions is also important. As you grow older, it also makes sense to know the symptoms of a heart attack, so you can seek prompt medical attention if they occur.
Heart attack symptoms in women can be very different from those seen in men; knowing those symptoms will allow you to seek prompt treatment.