Making lifestyle changes is the most effective way to prevent having a heart attack (or having another heart attack). There are three main steps you can take to help prevent a heart attack (as well as stroke):
Eating an unhealthy diet high in fat will make your atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) worse and increase your risk of heart attack. Continuing to eat high-fat foods will cause more fatty plaques to build up in your arteries. This is because fatty foods contain cholesterol.
There are two main types of cholesterol:
There are also two types of fat – saturated and unsaturated. Avoid foods containing high levels of saturated fat, as they increase levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
Smoking is a major risk factor for heart attacks because it causes atherosclerosis and raises blood pressure. If you decide to stop smoking, your GP will be able to refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking Service, which will provide dedicated help and advice about the best ways to quit. You can also call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0300 123 1014 (England only). Specially trained helpline staff will offer free expert advice and encouragement. If you are committed to quitting but do not want to be referred to a stop smoking service, your GP should be able to prescribe medical treatment to help with withdrawal symptoms you may experience. For more information about giving up smoking, read our stop smoking page.
Being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure. Find out if you need to lose weight with the BMI healthy weight calculator. If you do need to shed some weight, it is worth remembering that losing just a few pounds will make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health. Get tips on losing weight safely.
Being active and taking regular exercise will lower your blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition. Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will help lower your blood pressure.
Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, and cycling are recommended. More strenuous activities, such as playing football and squash, may not be recommended. Check with the doctor in charge of your care.