How to Prevent Heart Attacks


Heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), refers to a life-threatening medical emergency. It is primarily marked by a lack of oxygen supply to the heart. This disruption is often caused by a blockage of the blood vessels, mainly in the coronary artery. Deficiency of nutrients, blood, and oxygen in this area leads to cell death and subsequent death or atrophy of the heart muscle, resulting in chest pain or angina.

The main cause of blockages in the arteries supplying the heart muscle are clots or plaque deposits that result in the narrowing of these blood vessels. Clots and build-ups can reduce and/or stop blood flow, depending on the size of the blockage. The frequency of heart attack cases in a population is too challenging to calculate due to the nature of their occurrence as manifestations of pre-existing conditions and their frequency.

However, not all hope is lost in terms of epidemiology, owing to the identification of certain risk factors such as hypertension, smoking, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol levels, genetics, age, and more. Another silver lining to the common occurrence of heart attacks is the confirmation of certain peculiar signs and symptoms that promote early detection, thereby improving prognostic outcome (i.e., the chances of survival are higher if detected early).

Heart attacks are a part of heart diseases. Simply, it is a consequence of heart diseases existing and growing inside our bodies due to environmental, biological, genetic, mental, and other components. Heart disease, in most cases, is preventable and can be managed. It is vital to understand this, as the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack is high in individuals with heart disease. Risk factors, therefore, are important to preventing this disease.

Signs and symptoms  

As outlined by the CDC and the NHS, the symptoms of heart attacks include:  

Chest Pain

Sharp discomfort or pain felt along the front of the body, particularly in the chest, neck, back, and upper abdomen. It is a common symptom occurring as a result of reduced blood flow to the heart muscles and may be caused by blockages in the arteries. Sometimes chest pain could be a symptom of indigestion, however in cases of heart attacks, it could be described as a pain ranging from a crushing pressure to mild discomfort, squeezing, or burning through the arms, jaw, and breast bones.  


Often experienced more in older adults, females, and individuals with pre-existing diabetes, obesity, or other associated health conditions. It is often coupled with shortness of breath and/or palpitations when doing physical activity, as well as general weakness and tiredness. In some cases, the skin may become pale grey in colour. 

Coughing and wheezing

Often coupled with coughing up blood in the mucus or coughing up pinkish mucus  

Swelling in the lower extremities (legs, ankles, feet)

Often caused by reduced blood flow. These areas are affected by an imbalance of fluids as a result of these blockages. This often culminates in the buildup of other fluids in the surrounding tissues, which causes oedema or swelling.  

Other symptoms include: 

- Extreme anxiety 

- Dizziness and lightheadedness 

- Loss of consciousness 

- Nauseas 

- Vomiting 

- Heavy sweating 

- Increased heartbeat

Can you reverse this disease?  

Heart attacks are events that occur as a result of blockages in the arteries that cause restricted blood flow and subsequent muscle death. Although a heart attack can be fatal, it can be prevented.

Awareness of the risk factors can lead to effective prevention. Cardiac disease and cardiac episodes (such as heart attacks) can be influenced by:

  • Increasing age
  • Menopause
  • Family history of heart disease and/or heart episodes
  • Genetic risk
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Sex
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Pre-existing conditions

The importance of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle with proper nutrition, exercise, and regular health check-ups can reduce the risk of developing cardiac disease and prevent the progression of cardiovascular problems into potentially fatal chronic health conditions. Therefore, it is vital to familiarise yourself with the preventive measures that you can incorporate into your lifestyle.

In brief, the factors that you cannot control include age, gender, ethnicity-associated predispositions, genetics, and family history of heart diseases. However, risk factors that you can control include diet, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, body weight, diabetes management, physical activity, and mental health.

Lifestyle factors  

The following lifestyle factors have the greatest impact on increasing your risk of this chronic health condition.  


It is vital to understand the importance of nutrition in preventing the occurrence of heart disease and heart attacks. These recommendations apply especially if you are at risk of having heart disease, or if you have already been diagnosed with heart disease. Cholesterol is required in the body to carry out regular functions and is stored in the liver. High levels of cholesterol occur due to excess fat consumption through sugary foods, fried foods, processed foods, and alcohol. Additionally, cholesterol levels can also increase through eating foods high in saturated fats, such as red meat, chicken, oil, and butter. These can deposit in blood vessels, causing obstructions that restrict blood flow. Using plant-based substitutes such as soybean, hemp milk, vegan butter, peanut oil, unsalted nuts, seeds, and ‘good’ fats are beneficial. For tools that can help you plan your meals and learn more about proper nutrition, click here.

Physical activity  

Exercise is vital in maintaining physical and mental health. Research shows that general physical activity can improve cardiovascular health and make heart disease easier to manage. This in turn can prevent the occurrence of heart episodes such as cardiac arrest and heart attacks (Fiuza-Luces, et al.,  2018). There are lots of ways to get active, such as long, brisk walks, cycling, hiking, running, sports, or even yoga. Click here for more information on how to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. 


Obesity is a strong risk factor in the development of heart disease and heart attacks. Research from the European Society of Cardiology shows how body fat is linked to heart attacks. Therefore, it is important to understand how to prevent obesity. A combination of diet and exercise, as well as making sure your mental and physical health are regularly checked, is the best thing you can do to tackle obesity and lower your risk of heart disease. For more information on physical activity guidelines, click here.


Smoking has a definite known correlation to the prevalence of heart disease. Smoking contains carbon monoxide, tar, nicotine, and other toxins and carcinogens that contribute to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Smoking causes platelets to clump up together. This leads to the formation of clots which can obstruct blood vessels and restrict blood flow. Nicotine can increase blood pressure, and tar can cause lung disease, circulation problems, and increase the susceptibility of the lungs to infections. E-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, shisha, and low tar cigarettes are all harmful and should be avoided as much as possible as well. For more information on how to quit smoking, click here.  


Alcohol use can increase blood pressure and increase pressure on the kidneys to excrete the harmful chemical components present in alcohol. Drinking alcohol can also decrease the ability of the tissues within the body to absorb nutrients. It can also deposit in the arteries, causing obstruction and reduced blood flow throughout the body. It is vital to consider the health benefits of reducing alcohol intake. For accessing tools that can help you plan your alcohol intake, click here. 


There is a known link between cardiovascular health and sleeping patterns. Reduced sleep, poor sleep quality, night sweats, sleep apnea, and other sleep disturbances can not only affect daily activities, but also affect circulation, cellular nutrition, hormonal balance, and other functions within the body. To get better sleep, try maintaining a regular sleeping pattern, stay active throughout the day, avoid high-calorie meals right before bed, and cut down on sugar and caffeine. If sleep problems persist, it is worth considering speaking to your local healthcare provider to seek medical help.  

Mental Health  

Heart disease is highly common and is often associated with stress, major depressive disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.  Mental health is therefore extremely important in terms of preventing cardiac disease. Other mood disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders are also linked to heart disease. Chronic mental health disorders can cause certain physiological effects such as increased cardiac activity, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure or  hypertension, reduced blood flow, and hormonal imbalances. Stress is a leading cause of cardiac disease, with a higher risk associated with age. Therefore, mental health checks, breathing techniques, and other methods are useful in ensuring mental wellbeing. For information on mental health and heart health, click here.

Diagnostic testing  

At Klarity we use the latest technology when it comes to  diagnostic testing. Our home blood tests give you health insights and personalised recommendations. Find out which test you should take.  


Deaths occurring as a result of cardiovascular disease are often premature and easily preventable. Making active lifestyle changes can be extremely useful. In particular, it is vital to maintain a healthy and proportionate diet, manage your weight by ensuring you eat in accordance with your activity levels, regularly exercising, controlling the amount of alcohol you are consuming, and quitting smoking.  

For tools on stopping smoking:

- NHS Smokefree website 

- Quit Smoking treatments  

- Information on stopping smoking  

For diet and nutrition related tools: 

- Information about balanced diets  

- Information about hydration  

- Sugar, salt, fibre, and fat levels in food 

For exercise related information: 

- Measures of moderate activity 

- Getting started on exercise  

For tools on weight maintenance:  

- Seeking medical advice for weight loss 

- BMI calculator  

- Weight loss Tips  

- Email support for weight loss 

- Calculating the amount of weight you need to lose  

- Weight loss plan 

- Calorie counting  

For tools related to alcohol consumption and reduction:

- Alcohol consumption facts  

- Tips to reduce drinking  

- Support for quitting alcohol and maintaining sobriety  

- Information on overcoming alcohol addiction  


  1. Fiuza-Luces, C., Santos-Lozano, A., Joyner, M. et al. Exercise benefits in  cardiovascular disease: beyond attenuation of traditional risk factors. Nat  Rev Cardiol 15, 731–743 (2018). 
  2. Loucks, E. B., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Britton, W. B., Fresco, D. M.,  Desbordes, G., Brewer, J. A., & Fulwiler, C. (2015). Mindfulness and  Cardiovascular Disease Risk: State of the Evidence, Plausible  Mechanisms, and Theoretical Framework. Current cardiology reports,  17(12), 112. 
  3. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion ,  Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Heart Attack Symptoms,  Risk Factors, and Recovery | Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention. (2021). Retrieved 2 November 2021, from
  4. NHS.UK., Symptoms of a heart attack. (2019). Retrieved 2  November 2021, from

Ishana Gole

Master of Science - MS, Bioscience Entrepreneurship, UCL (University College London)
Ishana is a Biomedical Science student with a keen interest in neuroscience and past experience in online consulting, marketing and advertising. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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