What You Can Do to Prevent a Heart Attack

Recognizing the Symptoms

These vary from person to person. Not all heart attacks begin with the sudden, crushing chest painthat most of us have heard about. In fact, some cause no symptoms at all, especially those that happen to people with diabetes.

They may begin slowly, with mild pain and discomfort. They can happen while you’re at rest or active. How severe they are can depend on your age, gender, and medical conditions.

Warning Signs

Common ones may include:

Chest discomfort that feels like pressure, fullness, or a squeezing pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.

Pain and discomfort that go beyond your chest to other parts of your upper body, like one or both arms, or your back, neck, stomach, teeth, and jaw

Unexplained shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort

Other symptoms, such as:

  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anxiety, indigestion
  • Unexplained fatigue

Women are more likely than men to have additional issues, like neck, shoulder, upper back, or abdominal pain.

You want what’s best for your heart. And it’s simpler than you might think. These  lifestyle changes can help prevent a heart attack and heart disease.

Eat to be your best. Add plenty of fruits and veggies, grains, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like fresh tuna or herring to your diet. Cut down on salt, saturated fats, sweets, and red meats. Avoid trans fats and food with “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” ingredients. Variety in your diet is a good way to get all the nutrients you need.

Take it easy. Find a relaxation method that works for you. Yoga, meditation, dedicated time to unwind after work — these can help keep your stress levels down. Stressful emotions such as anger and hostility may also lead to heart attack risk, so keep calm and be cool. 

Ban smoking. If you never started smoking, that’s perfect! If you already quit, excellent. If you still smoke, stop. Talk to your doctor to find out what method will work best for you.  Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of heart disease. Start now. In just 1 year you can reduce your risk of a heart attack. 

Keep tabs on your blood pressure. If it’s too high, your risk of a heart attack and heart disease goes up. Stress management, a healthy diet, and regular exercise can help you manage your blood pressure. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to lower your levels. 

Mind your blood sugar. Too much sugar in your blood can damage your arteries. This happens with prediabetes as well as diabetes. Work with your doctor to control your blood sugar levels.  That may lower your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Remember, you can’t tell if you have diabetes (or high blood pressure, or high cholesterol) based on how you feel.

Be smart about cholesterol. When blood flows through your blood vessels, it can drop traces of cholesterol, fat, and calcium, creating a buildup of plaque in your arteries. Too much of that plaque makes a heart attack more likely. If you don’t know your cholesterol levels, ask your doctor for a blood test.

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