According to a report from the American Heart Association, someone in the United States has a heart attack nearly every 40 seconds.

To make things even scarier, one in five heart attacks is silent, or goes unnoticed.

Whether you realize you’re experiencing a heart attack or not, heart attacks can be fatal or cause lasting damage. Those that go unnoticed can even put you at risk for additional, and worse, heart attacks down the road.

Learn more about some of the risk factors and how lifestyle adjustments may help prevent you or a loved one from experiencing a heart attack in the future.

Medical Conditions That Put You at High Risk of a Heart Attack

Some of the most prominent issues that place Americans at high risk for a heart attack are:

  • Diabetes
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use

Signs & Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Heart attack signs and symptoms can include:

  • Discomfort in the chest that feels like pressure, fullness, or squeezing for minutes
  • Pain and discomfort that continues throughout your upper body, commonly in the back and jaw
  • Unexplained shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anxiety
  • Indigestion
  • Irregular fatigue

How to Prevent a Heart Attack

Have a Healthy Diet

Eating better is a lifestyle adjustment that can help to lessen symptoms of an existing condition or even reduce your risk for future issues, such as a heart attack.

The types of food you should eat are:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Fiber-rich grains
  • Lean meats
  • Fatty fish
  • Nuts, seeds, and oils

In terms of things to avoid:

  • Limit excessive salt intake
  • Cut saturated and trans fat
  • Limit your sugar intake
  • Limit alcohol consumption

Exercise & Be Physically Active

In addition to healthy dieting, consistent exercise and physical activity is a fundamental aspect of keeping your heart healthy. Develop a workout plan or schedule that consists of both aerobic and strength training to ensure your heart is strong enough to prevent major complications.

Be Cautious of Your Cholesterol

Having a high cholesterol can cause blockage in your arteries, which often leads to heart attacks. Use the dieting (especially cutting saturated and trans fat) and exercise tips above to help reduce your cholesterol. You can also consult your doctor about what cholesterol medications you could be taking.

Relax & Reduce Stress

Despite previously recommending the need for exercise and physical activity, you need to make time for relaxation and cut out stress.

Be sure to get enough sleep daily. If you’re feeling fatigued from exercise, rest and recover. And, if your job or other factors are causing you stress, look for solutions to help reduce or eliminate it. While this may seem easier than other lifestyle adjustments, it’s extremely important and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Read more stress management tips from the American Heart Association.

No Smoking

Smoking is detrimental to every area of your health, especially within your heart. It puts harmful chemicals into your bloodstream which can lead to the development of coronary artery disease (CAD) – greatly increasing your likelihood of having a heart attack.

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

Having high blood pressure is a major risk factor for having a heart attack. An optimal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg.

Learn natural ways to lower your blood pressure.

Talk to Your Doctor

After reviewing your medical history and discussing your current lifestyle, your doctor should be able to recommend certain medicines or other lifestyle adjustments that can help to reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

Start Protecting Your Heart

Heart attacks are a very serious issue, and more Americans than you think have had, or know someone who has had, a heart attack. By learning more about the signs and symptoms, and taking the precautionary steps, you can protect your heart so that you can live actively!