Key Takeaways


The more you know about managing stress, blood pressure, cholesterol and other controllable risk factors, the more you’re living the heart-healthy way.


There are some unavoidable risk factors for a heart attack – age and your genetics, for example. Still, it’s good to know what they are and discuss them with your doctor.


Smokers are at a higher risk of developing a heart attack. However, your risk can be cut in half in just one year if you quit.

Lack of Physical Activity

People who exercise moderately or rigorously regularly reduce their heart disease risk. Aim for a reachable goal such as 30 minutes of exercise a day. Get help finding a routine you’ll stick with.

Being Overweight

If you’re overweight, your risk for heart disease is higher – but striving to maintain a healthy weight can lower your risk. Read these tips on how to get exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise.

A Fatty, Salty or Sugary Diet

A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, cholesterol and sodium increases your risk of heart attack. Try adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate, while cutting back on processed foods and foods fried in oil. Decrease your portion size and be sure to drink lots of water. Learn about Heart-Healthy Foods You Can Enjoy.

High LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol can clog your arteries and put you at risk. While genetics impact your LDL number, so does a lack of exercise and a diet high in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol. Try eating more fibre and fish, and check out other heart-healthy foods you might learn to love to help lower your cholesterol.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for heart attacks. If you have high blood pressure, it can be managed by adopting a diet low in salt, saturated fats, cholesterol and alcohol. Physical activity, weight loss and stress management are also key in lowering your blood pressure.


When you think about stress, heart attack may not be the immediate connection you make. But the truth is that mental stress can damage the protective lining of blood vessels, potentially causing inflammatory reactions that lead to fat and cholesterol build-up in the arteries. This can increase your risk of a heart attack.


Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease. With diabetes, it’s important to monitor other risk factors. Improving your diet, losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising regularly and taking medications can make a difference. Learn more about managing heart disease risks as a diabetic.


Both young and old people have heart attacks, so heart attacks and age aren’t necessarily related. But age is a risk factor. The incidence of certain heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, increases with age.


If anyone in your biological family has had heart disease, you have a higher risk – but lifestyle still plays a role. For example, if your family member had a heart attack due to risk factors such as a poor diet or smoking, and you have a healthy lifestyle, your risk is different.


While heart disease is the second leading cause of death for both men and women in Canada, there are some key differences between genders. Women tend to experience heart attacks about 10 years later in life than men. Also, women are twice as likely as men to die within the first few weeks of suffering a heart attack.