6 Heart Attack Risk Factors

Learn the key risk factors that determine your chances of having a heart attack

Sanaz Majd, MD,
December 7, 2011

The main risk factors for heart attacks include:

Age – risk for heart attacks begins to rise for men at age 40 and women at 50.  It can still happen below that age, but it’s a lot less likely.

Sex – men are at higher risk than women, although the disease still kills a huge number of women each year.

Genetics – if a member of your immediate family has coronary heart disease, your risk is substantially higher. That risk is especially high if that family member is a man under 50 or a woman under 60

Smoking – people often think of smoking as a danger to the lungs (which it is), but the biggest risk of death from smoking is from heart attacks.  I recommend my patients who smoke quit and take up something safer, like tightrope walking, javelin catching, or training pit bulls. 

Hypertension and Diabetes – having these diseases also increase risk.

High cholesterol – this is a complex subject, so please refer to Should You be Worried About Your Cholesterol? to get an accurate picture.

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