You can take steps today to lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.
To help prevent heart disease, you can:
- Eat healthy and get active.
- Watch your weight.
- Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
- Control your cholesterol (“koh-LEHS-tuh-rahl”) and blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Take steps to prevent type 2 diabetes.
- Manage stress.
Am I at risk for heart disease?
You are at higher risk for heart disease if:
- You are a woman over age 55
- You are a man over age 45
- Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55
- Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65
The good news is that heart disease can be prevented.
What is heart disease?
When people talk about heart disease, they are usually talking about coronary heart disease (CHD). It’s also called coronary artery disease (CAD). This is the most common type of heart disease.
When someone has CHD, the arteries (tubes) that take blood to the heart are narrow or blocked. This happens when cholesterol and fatty material, called plaque (“plak”), build up inside the arteries.
Plaque is caused by:
- Fat and cholesterol in the blood
- High blood pressure
- Too much sugar in the blood (usually because of diabetes)
When plaque blocks an artery, it’s hard for blood to flow to the heart. A blocked artery can cause chest pain or a heart attack. Learn more about CHD.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Parts of the heart muscle may die.
Signs of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain, like uncomfortable pressure or squeezing
- Trouble breathing
- Pain or discomfort in the upper body, like the arms, back, neck, or jaw
Not everyone who has a heart attack will have the same signs. Know the other common signs of a heart attack. Call 911 right away if you think you or someone else is having a heart attack.