Knowledge is power, so get a handle on the risks you face right away. The more risk factors you have, and the greater the level of each risk factor, the higher your chance of developing coronary heart disease — a common term for the buildup of plaque in the heart’s arteries that could lead to heart attack.
Extensive research has identified factors that increase a person’s risk of coronary heart disease in general and heart attack in particular:
- Major risk factors
Research has shown that these unchangeable factors significantly increase the risk of heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.
- Modifiable risk factors
Some major risk factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle change.
- Contributing risk factors
These factors are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but their significance and prevalence haven't yet been determined.
The American Heart Association recommends beginning heart disease prevention early in life, starting by assessing your risk factors and working to keep them low. The sooner you know and manage your risk factors, the better your chances of leading a heart-healthy life.
Read more about each of these risk types below. Then, assess your risk using our Heart Attack Risk Calculator.
Preventing Heart Attacks
A heart attack can occur at any age. You’re never too young to start heart-healthy living. If you are over 40, or if you have multiple risk factors, work especially closely with your doctor to address your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Heart attack prevention should begin early in life. Start with an assessment of your risk factors and a plan you can follow to keep your heart attack risk low. Prevention is critical, because many first-ever heart attacks are fatal or disabling.
Learn Heart-Health Basics
Reducing your risk starts with smart choices.
- If you smoke, stop. The American Heart Association has tools to help you quit.
- Work with your physician to manage your risk factors. These might include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
- An active lifestyle and good nutrition have also been shown to be helpful in preventing heart attack. See more lifestyle tips for heart attack prevention.
- Follow seven simple steps toward healthier living.
- Watch what happens when you have a heart attack, and learn how it affects your heart health.
- Think you know what's best for your heart? Test your Heart I.Q. with one of our Healthy Heart Quizzes, including blood pressure, cholesterol, lifestyle and taking medication.
This content was last reviewed June 2016.