Heart Attack Prevention From a Doctor's Perspective

Medical Author: Dennis Lee, MD
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD

Heart attacks are the major cause of sudden unexpected death among otherwise healthy adults in the prime of their lives. Heart attacks are also a significant cause of heart failure (due to weakening of the heart muscle) in the United States. Heart failure considerably decreases a person's longevity and quality of life. In dollar terms, coronary heart disease (coronary artery disease) is costly. The total cost of coronary artery bypass surgery , coronary angioplasty and stenting, medications, and hospitalizations exceeds 50 billion dollars annually.

The major cause of heart attacks is coronary atherosclerosis (cholesterol plaque-induced hardening and narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart). Coronary atherosclerosis, and hence heart attacks, are preventable conditions. Heart attack prevention involves first identifying one's risk factors for developing atherosclerosis and heart attacks, and then taking measures to change those risk factors. Even though one cannot change risk factors such as genetic makeup, a person can significantly lower his/her risk of heart attacks by improving modifiable risk factors such as:

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