If you want to lower your risk of heart attack, cardiologists say you should do this one thing every day

By | March 5, 2024

A cardiologist holds up an object in the shape of a heart

More than 800,000 people in the US have a heart attack every year. In reality, the actual figure may be much higher, as experts estimate that at least half of all heart attacks may be “silent,” meaning the person has few or no heart attacks. noticeable symptoms and as a result you may not seek medical treatment. All heart attacks – silent or otherwise – can damage your heart and be potentially life-threatening, so you obviously want to do everything possible to prevent this serious medical event.

While there’s no surefire way to guarantee you’ll never have a heart attack, there are things you can do (and avoid) that will significantly reduce your risk.

Related: If you want to lower your risk of heart attack, there’s one habit you should ditch as soon as possible

Biggest risk factors for a heart attack

There are several primary risk factors for a heart attack – and the good news is that you can control or at least improve most of them.

Dr. Payal Kohli, MD, FACC,
Preventive cardiologist and founder and medical director of Cherry Creek Heart lists the most important modifiable/treatable risk factors:

  • Cholesterol. Dr. Kohli says you need to understand your cholesterol levels and the risks associated with high LDL cholesterol. “It is important to discuss treatment options with your doctor and consider options to lower your cholesterol if it is elevated.”

  • Obesity. Dr. Kohli recommends maintaining a healthy weight, with a BMI of 20-25.

  • Diabetes/prediabetes. You should aim for an HbA1c of less than 5.6, says Dr. Kohli.

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure. Ideally, your blood pressure should be 120/80 or lower, says Dr. Kohli.

  • Lifestyle habits. This includes things like smoking, diet, exercise and alcohol consumption.

There are also some risk factors that you cannot control. In addition to age and gender, these include:

Related: This Is the Absolute Best Workout for Heart Health If You’re Over 50, According to Cardiologists

The one daily habit that cardiologists say can lower the risk of a heart attack

There is one change you can make that can immediately improve your risk of heart attack Dr. Sandeep R. Singh, MD, MBA, a cardiologist and medical advisor from Recovery Plus, eat healthy. This should include “lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins,” says Dr. Singh. “Adopting a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and refined sugars can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack.”

Dr. Kohli echoes that advice. “I recommend that each plate contains half fruits/vegetables/legumes, one quarter lean protein (fish, tofu), and one quarter whole grains,” she says. “These foods should have lots of colors (especially the vegetables), be freshly made, minimally processed and low in sodium. With this ‘recipe’ for healthy eating, we can try to integrate the DASH and/or Mediterranean diet, both of which are considered ‘heart healthy’, into our lives.”

Other changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart attack

In addition to improving your diet, there are some other changes you can make to your daily habits that can lower your risk of heart attack.

Excercise

Most people need to exercise more, says Dr Singh, who recommends getting 30 minutes of exercise most days, with a target of 150 minutes per week.

Stop smoking and limit alcohol intake

“It’s not just about what we eat, it’s also about what we don’t eat/put into our bodies, like toxins,” explains Dr. Kohli out. “So the recommendation for a healthy heart would preferably be no alcohol, but if you choose to drink, then no more than one to two drinks per week would be ideal. I would also recommend avoiding any form of smoking, including nicotine or marijuana. You can activate inflammation by vaping and smoking, and this can ultimately increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.”

Learn to deal with stress

Chronic stress can be bad for your heart. Dr. Singh suggests that you “find things that help you relax, like deep breathing or hobbies.”

Get enough sleep

Getting enough rest can be good for you in many ways, including supporting heart health. “Seven to nine hours of sleep at night is a must for most adults,” says Dr. Kohli. “And we need good quality sleep, so we should avoid screens around bedtime when it’s dark outside and try to have a routine, with good ‘sleep hygiene’ of winding down before bed and following the same routine every day , synchronized with darkness and sunlight. And if you snore, I recommend discussing screening for sleep apnea.”

Related: Is Waking Up in the Middle of the Night Normal? This is what sleep doctors say

Know your risk score

Knowing which risk factors you need to improve can help you make positive changes. “According to the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization, 80% of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle and treating risk factors, which are described as the ‘Essential 8 of life,’” says Dr. Kohli. “Each individual should calculate their ‘Life’s Essential 8’ score and be given a personal ‘lifestyle prescription’ on how to improve this score.”

The good news is that making just a few relatively basic (yet very important) changes can dramatically improve your heart health and lower your risk of heart attack. “Easy lifestyle changes that are integrated into life, especially early on, can have a huge impact on the trajectory of heart disease,” says Dr. Kohli. “I like to say it’s a train running on a track. Statistically, cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest healthcare crises worldwide and in the US we know where the train is going. But small changes in that train’s trajectory at a young age can lead the train to a completely different destination. Know your numbers, so you know (and can change) your risk!”

Next, check out these 25 foods that are good for your heart.

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