How to Prevent a Heart Attack

Four Methods:Changing Your DietMaking Lifestyle ChangesUsing MedicineUsing Home Remedies

Just like any other tissue in the body, the heart must receive blood in order to get the oxygen and nutrients it requires to stay alive and healthy. The blood vessels which feed the heart are called coronary arteries. A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction (MI), is when a lack of oxygen causes death of muscle tissue in the heart. This can be caused by blockage, which is usually the result of heart disease, or coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is the build-up of fatty plaques in the walls of the arteries, which causes the arteries to become very narrow and sometimes rupture. This leads to the formation of blood clots which can completely obstruct the arteries. This is the cause of the majority of heart attacks.[1] If you worry you might be at risk for a heart attack, you can follow a few simple steps to prevent one from happening.

Method 1
Changing Your Diet

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    Eat a balanced diet. To help prevent blockage and reduce plaque buildup in your heart, you need to consume healthy, balanced meals. In general, a balanced diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy. It also includes lean proteins, such as poultry, fish, and beans. You should also only eat foods low in saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol. Avoid butter, fried foods, and cheese.
    • Avoid dairy product with added sugar and higher calorie content.
    • The USDA has many resources available to learn more about how to create a balance diet.[2][3]
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    Watch your cholesterol levels. CAD and the development of plaque is the result of elevated cholesterol and sugars, as well as chronically elevated blood pressure. To help reduce your cholesterol, reduce your number of carbohydrates, especially the high glycemic and high fructose foods. These are often referred to as simple or bad carbs because they are high in calories but low in the amount of energy they create during metabolism. They are processed and expended by your body very quickly and lead to fat deposition and spikes in bad sugars and fats.
    • Simple carbs include foods such as cookies, cakes, candy, processed cereals, white bread, white rice, chips, sodas, juices, and non-diet soft drinks.[4]
    • When you consume an excess of fat, sugar, or carbohydrates, your body metabolizes these into a type of molecule called lipids, which include cholesterol and triglycerides. Having unhealthy levels of lipids causes too much fat circulating in the blood. This contributes to the development of fatty plaques in vessel walls.[5]
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    Try the DASH diet. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a medically designed and studied diet plan that focuses on reducing blood pressure. It was shown the significantly lower both levels of blood pressures. The diet is high in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and lean proteins. It is also low in sodium, added-sugars, and fats.
    • It emphasizes small portion size, cutting out animal proteins, and getting enough nutrients like as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.[6]
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    Reduce your sodium intake. Decreasing dietary salt intake can decrease blood pressure by several points. This will help lower your chances of heart attack because your blood will not be moving so quickly through your heart. Current recommendations are that those with high blood pressure should limit their sodium intake to less than 1500 to 2000 mg per day. Look for foods that are no salt added or reduced sodium. Don't add excess salt to your foods either. Avoid many prepackaged meals because they tend to have extremely high levels of sodium.
    • Be mindful of serving sizes as you eat. Make sure to keep track of the sodium you consume each day and try to keep it below 1500 mg.[7]
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    Put whole grains into your diet. The DASH diet recommends six to eight servings of whole grains a day. Grains are eaten in foods such as pasta, bread, and rice. Try to eat whole grains over refined grains. If you've got a choice, opt for whole grain pasta instead of regular pasta; brown rice instead of white rice; whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
    • Always look for labels that clearly state "100 percent whole grain" or "100 percent whole wheat."[8]
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    Eat more fruits and vegetables. Vegetables are delicious, diverse, and extremely healthy. Use fruits both as a natural treat and a substitute for refined, sugary sweets that you might have a hankering for. DASH recommends that you get four to five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
    • Eat more squash, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, artichokes, and carrots to up your vegetables intake as well as increase your daily fiber, potassium, and magnesium.
    • Leave on the edible peels of fruits for extra fiber. The peels of apples, kiwis, pears, and mangoes can all be eaten and enjoyed along with the fruit.[9]
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    Consume lean protein selectively. Although a great deal of protein is not suggested, you should eat lean meats and proteins when you do. Eat no more than six servings of lean proteins per day, such as poultry breast, fish, or eggs.
    • When you do make meat, trim away any fat or skin from the meat before cooking. Cook them by grilling, broiling, roasting, boiling, or poaching instead of frying.
    • Opt for more fish instead. Fish such as salmon contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which help ease hypertension instead of contributing to it. [10]
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    Have more soy. You should eat more soy, which contains isoflavones. These can act to lower levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides as well as raise levels of good cholesterol. Additionally, soy products are lower in saturated fats than other types of proteins. Supplementing some of you proteins with soy can create a healthier diet.
    • You can buy edamame, which are soy beans, as well as tofu, soy nuts, or other foods with soy as a main ingredient.[11]

Method 2
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Exercise daily. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine can help you prevent a heart attack. Try to include aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, and strength training every day to help decrease your blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that for overall cardiovascular health, adults get at least 30 minutes of moderately intensive activity at least five days per week for a total of 150 minutes and moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week.
    • You can substitute your five days of moderate cardio for at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week for a total of 75 minutes.
    • If you feel that this is more than you can manage, try to start small. Doing anything that gets your heart pumping is a good thing. You can work up to longer exercises and eventually reach the recommended amount of exercise per week. Do your best to get as much exercise as you can, even if it is going for a short walk.[12][13][14]
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    Lose weight. Being overweight is tough on your heart. You should use diet and exercise to help get down and maintain a healthy body weight. Medically speaking, a healthy weight is defined by body mass index (BMI). This scale estimates your appropriate weight range according to your height and sex. A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. BMIs below 18.5 are underweight, from 25.0 to 29.9 are overweight, and above 30.0 is defined as obese. You can use online BMI calculators to find out where you fall on the spectrum.
    • Counting calories can be an easy and efficient way to lose or maintain weight. You can estimate your daily calories needs by multiplying your weight in pounds by 10. This is the number of calories a day you need to eat to maintain your weight. If you are trying to lose weight, eat less than this number.
    • This number changes a bit depending on your gender, age, and daily activity level. You can use online calorie intake calculators or ask your doctor to find out your target calorie range.[15][16]
    • The healthiest rate to lose weight is at about one to two pounds per week. This is a healthy and commonly recommended rate of weight loss.[17]
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    Reduce your stress. Stress, anxiety, and depression can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. Learning how to manage and cope with stress can improve both your emotional and physical health. Participating in hobbies you enjoy as well as meditation and yoga are great ways to rest and relax.[18] Try taking some time everyday to do something that relaxes you, whether it be reading a book, sitting outside in the sunshine, or watching your favorite TV program.
    • You can try to incorporate a nice, brisk walk and yoga into your daily routine to destress. These activities double as exercise, which means you can help prevent a heart attack in two ways at once.
    • If you feel like you are struggling with anxiety or depression, speak to your healthcare professional.
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    Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a refined carbohydrate that that turns to sugar in your blood. This can cause plaque build up. Additionally, men who consume more than two servings of alcohol daily, and women who consume more than one serving of alcohol daily, have an increased risk for developing hypertension.
    • The calories and sugars from alcohol can also lead to weight gain.[19]
    • Heavy drinkers who want to limit their alcohol intake should slowly lower intake over the course of several weeks. Heavy drinkers who suddenly cut back alcohol intake put themselves at risk to develop severe high blood pressure.[20]
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    Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, especially in those who do not consume it regularly. At high doses, it can even cause irregular heart beats.[21] The current recommendations are to consume no more than 400 mg daily. You should limit yourself to a few small cups of coffee a day or a few other caffeinated beverages, depending on their caffeine levels. If you have high blood pressure, you should limit your caffeine intake even more.
    • An eight oz coffee has 100 to 150 mg of caffeine, a one oz espresso has 30 to 90 mg, and an eight oz tea has 40 to 120 mg per serving.[22]
    • Other caffeinated commonly ingested include sodas, energy drinks and diet pills.
    • Over-the-counter decongestants (phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine) can also raise blood pressure, especially if you already have a history of hypertension. Some herbal supplements, such as ginseng and guarana, can also raise blood pressure.
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    Quit smoking. Smoking is one of the most common and avoidable contributing factors to cardiovascular death. The chemicals in cigarettes cause an increase in heart rate and vessel constriction, which contributes to increased blood pressure.[23] More importantly, cigarette smoking causes stiffening of the arteries over time, which can persist for many years after quitting.
    • Quit as soon as possible to stop the adverse effects. Talk to your doctor about options that can help you, such as nicotine patches, gum, counseling and support group, and prescription medication to reduce cravings.[24][25]

Method 3
Using Medicine

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    Visit your doctor to get assessed. High cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure may not cause symptoms until cardiovascular disease has become severe and resulted in organ damage. For this reason, it is important to schedule annual visits, or physicals, with your doctor to assess your risk of heart disease. You doctor can measure your blood pressure and order blood tests to look at cholesterol levels.
    • If any of these measurements are abnormal, she may prescribe medication that could be crucial for preventing a heart attack.
    • You should start cholesterol screening no later than age 45.[26]
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    Take medicine for blood blots. Medication that help with blood clots are called antiplatelet agents. Platelets are a component of the blood that are triggered to form blood clots when there is injury. Aspirin is the most commonly used medication in this group. It is a pill generally taken once a day in a dose of 81 to 325 mg. Side effects for regular use include stomach upset and, in rare cases, GI bleeding.
    • Other types of antiplatelet agents include Plavix, Brilinta, and Effient. These are also pills that are generally taken once daily. The common side effect of taking these is easy bleeding and bruising.[27][28]
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    Get cholesterol medication. Cholesterol medications are called statins. They work by lowering bad cholesterol in your system and raising good cholesterol. This prevents the development of plaque in the heart. There are a number of different types, including Lipitor, Pravachol, Crestor, Mevacor, Altoprev, Zocor, and Livalo. These are pills that are generally taken once daily.
    • In general, this class of medication is very safe and has very few and infrequent side-effects. Studies have suggested that they can rarely cause minor injury to the liver and kidneys. They can also cause muscle toxicity, injury and breakdown. [29][30]
    • Statin therapy plays and especially important role in reducing cardiovascular risk in diabetic patients.
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    Ask your doctor about thiazide diuretics. Frequently, lifestyle changes are not enough to reduce blood pressure to healthy levels and prescription medications must be used. Thiazide diuretics reduce fluid volume and cause relaxation of vessels in your heart. This medication is taken once daily. Side effects include low potassium, which can cause muscle weakness and irregular heartbeat, as well as low sodium, which can cause dizziness, vomiting, and fatigue.[31]
    • The most effective regimen for lowering blood pressure is a combination of both lifestyle changes and medication. Sometimes more than one type of medication is necessary.
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    Try angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. ACE inhibitors stop a hormone called Angiotensin II, which results in narrowed vessels and increased fluid retention in the heart. It is generally taken one to three times daily. Major side effects include low blood pressure, which can cause dizziness and fainting, elevated potassium, and cough.
    • Up to 20% of patients taking an ACE inhibitor will develop a dry, hacking cough, generally within one to two weeks of starting the medication.[32][33]
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    Use blockers. There are three other types of medications that are classified as blockers. Beta blockers, alpha blockers, and calcium channel blockers. Alpha and beta blockers may be used if you do not respond to other medications. These work by blocking signals from nerves and hormones in the body that cause narrowed blood vessels. They are taken one to three times daily.
    • Side effects for beta blockers include cough and shortness of breath, low blood sugar, high potassium, depression, fatigue, and sexual dysfunction. Side effects for alpha blockers include headache, nausea, weakness, and weight gain.[34][35]
    • Also try calcium channel blockers. Calcium channel blockers are potent vasodilators, which work by relaxing the muscle in the wall of vessels. These are generally taken one to three times daily. Side effects include swelling in the lower extremities and decreased heart rate.[36]

Method 4
Using Home Remedies

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    Use holly leaf. Although not scientifically verified, there are several herbal remedies which are thought to help hypertension. Holly leaf extract is used as a tea in China and is supposed to help blood vessels enhance circulation and blood flow to the heart.
    • This is available in liquid form, and is usually taken as a few drop ingested throughout the day.[37][38]
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    Try hawthorn berry extract. Hawthorn berry extract is purported to improve the supply of blood to the heart and also help to support the metabolism of the heart. This is available in a capsule or tablet for and is generally taken 500 to 1500 mg daily.
    • It is important to note that this can interact with other medications and should not be taken in conjunction with other medication for high blood pressure. [39][40]
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    Consider additional herbal remedies. There are other herbal remedies that might work to help prevent a heart attack as well. Hibiscus can act like a diuretic and may have actions that mimic ACE inhibitors. Make a tea with one to two teaspoons of dried hibiscus in one cup boiling water. You can drink this tea two to three times daily.
    • Coconut water contains potassium and magnesium, both of which help with normal muscle function. It is recommended to drink eight oz, one to two times daily. Make sure you keep a check on the calories you are consuming, since coconut water is not calorie free.
    • Ginger-cardamom tea is used in India to naturally reduce blood pressure. This can be drunk one to two times daily.[41]
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    Use nutritional supplements. There are some nutritional supplements which have be shown to decrease the amount of fat in your blood and lessen your chances of a heart attack. Try buying fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically the ones called DHA and EPA, are found in over the counter as supplements in pill form. You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish such as anchovies and tuna or nuts (especially walnuts), flaxseed and leafy vegetables. Eating one to two servings of oily fish or taking 1 gram of a fish oil supplement daily has been shown to reduce levels of triglycerides and the risk of death from heart disease.
    • You also need to get more plant stanols and sterols. These are found naturally in a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It is also added to commercially prepared products such as margarines like Promise Activ and Benecol, orange juices such as Minute Maid Premium Heart Wise, and rice milk such as Rice Dream Heartwise. You can also get them as dietary supplements such as Benecol SoftGels and Cholest-Off. Plant stanols and sterols are thought to act by preventing the intestines from absorbing cholesterol.[42]
    • Keep in mind that not all herbal remedies or alternative supplements are FDA approved, nor is there always enough scientific information to support their use or determine appropriate dosing. Make sure to consult your healthcare professional prior to starting new supplements.

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Categories: Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure