Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Top 10 Ways to Avoid a Heart Attack

        Health | Heart

Doctor holding plastic toy heart. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

A sad event may leave you with a "heavy" heart. If you're a cold and callous person, you're described as having either a "hard" heart or no heart at all. The 1980s music group Quarterflash tried to harden their heart, and Bruce Springsteen says that everybody's heart is hungry. There are a lot of words you can attach to "heart" to describe a wide variety of human conditions and emotions. But here's a sobering thought -- the three words most often used to describe a real cardiac event are "arrest," "attack" and "failure."

Your ticker is a pretty simple organ. It brings blood in by way of arteries and then pumps it back out to the rest of the body. A waxy substance called plaque can build up on the inside of these arteries, which makes them narrower, and it becomes more difficult for the blood to take the ride into and out of the heart. Over time, the buildup of plaque deposits can rupture and cause total blockage of the blood flow to the heart. This is called a heart attack and it's the No. 1 killer of both men and women each year in the United States [source: American Heart Association].

The bad news about heart attacks is that there are many factors that play in to whether you'll have one, including your genes, what you eat and how much you exercise. The good news is that they're preventable. If you take steps now, you can greatly improve your chances of not having a heart attack. We've compiled a list of 10 things you can do to help you avoid being a heart attack statistic.


/* Discovernator - full and tiny */ .discovernator #factContainer { margin: 0 70px; -moz-box-shadow: 0 0 5px #a3ccea; -webkit-box-shadow: 0 0 5px #a3ccea; box-shadow: 0 0 5px #a3ccea; } .discovernator .tri { position: relative; z-index: 3; } /* full*/ .mainDiscovernator .RandomFact.module { margin-bottom: 0; } .discovernator.full { width: 825px; height: 570px; padding: 0 0 38px 0; background: url('http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/heart-health-tips-background.png') no-repeat 0 0; } .discovernator.full h1 { width:515px; height:122px; background: url('http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/heart-health-tips-big-title.png') no-repeat 130px 15px; } .discovernator.full h2 { width:498px; height:23px; background:url('http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/heart-health-tips-subheading.png') no-repeat 50px 0px; } .discovernator.full .button { width:233px; height:51px; background: url('http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/heart-health-tips-button.png') no-repeat 0 0; } .discovernator.full .tri { background-image: url (data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAAEYAAAAlCAMAAADIkG9CAAAAulBMVEX////8/f72+v37/f7P5vP0+f2x1+zO5fOy2O3w9/u12e7y +Py83e/g7/j9/f74/P3l8Pi/3u/m8vjb7Pbe7ffF4PHE4PDL4/Pa7Pay1+3T5/Tt9fv9/v7W6vXM5fO02O293e/u9vuz2O3F4fHr9fr4+/3n8vnq9Pr +/v/Y6/X0+fz6/P3d7ffG4vG+3e/V6fXj8Pi52u7X6vXK4/K42u7B3/Dz +fzl8fjv9vvJ4/Lo8/nA3vC72+6w1uxDqvEIAAAAPnRSTlP//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// /////ALr7cTYAAAEjSURBVEjHrdRndoJAFIbhQZEWiIDdaDSa3nt/97+t/OEkEgemyLeA58wtcwW/aQvr7IkmmHa8wbSsmRFNMD2aYFJKTNdOOZ6UGbsWHy0oM4 6NcrCizARWFQX8Yx4slLxQNpjMatJbzNoU2XeRMK6hcpkhY8Zmyv0KKfNmgjguyJl3k8MQU8F4+ts36wVUMUv9xV1CJaM7qK4PNUxfT0kW1DKh1nf +glomOlcj4Q0omEP1kEegZFIF0vFBzXhX9eX4HjrMRx3yOUCVgjmtPgdJDJpMNKtqyTwCbWYqf0g6QDMCwOvIBjyNwIjZXprWOMMkAuC1bJz0hxhGAE +ld1yvMY+AyV9nwotbrCJgXhyS3H/GNoJvRwjn7PGFXSJI8rshu+YHsJQatMLGNKcAAAAASUVORK5CYII=); } /* tiny*/ .discovernator.tiny { height: 304px !important; background: url('http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/families-background-mini.jpg') no-repeat 0 0; } .discovernator.tiny h1 { margin: -8px -13px 0; width:300px; height: 82px; background: url('http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/families-header-mini.png') no-repeat 0 0; } .discovernator.tiny h2 { margin: 6px auto 0; width:192px; height:30px; background: url('http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/families-tagline-mini.png') no-repeat 0 0; } .discovernator.tiny #factContainer{ margin: -14px auto 0; height: 105px; } .discovernator.tiny #justthefacts li { padding: 16px 12px; height: 85px; } .discovernator.tiny #gimme { margin: 20px auto; } .discovernator.tiny .button { width:144px; height:31px; background: url('http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/families-more-button-mini.png') no-repeat 0 0; } .discovernator.tiny .tri { background-image: url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACcAAAAVCAMAAADyzwehAAAAw1BMVEX/// +12O39/f7U6PT9/v7k8fiy1+zE4fH8/f7f7vjv9vvH4vLW6fX4/P34+/3E4PG52+6x1+zO5fO93O7L4/Oy2O3R5/P+/v/f7vf9/v/x +Pzh8Pjv9vv3+/3F4fG32u6z2O2x1uy42u7A3u/Y6/XY6vX1+v3b7Pbo8/nm8vjc7PfM5PP6/f79/v7T6PTt9frg7/jW6vW72+7n8/m62+70+f283e/j8Pjv9/v a7Pbm8vnu9fvE4PDQ5/PG4vHA3vCw1uzLlOswAAAAQXRSTlP/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// //////////ADBV7McAAAC2SURBVCjPhc/XDoJAFEXRQUMLKMWu2HvB3uv5/68yCEHKDLOfV27OJYLXlHA6EXjpHJYzfLfjOBu +G2WzPAJ347HAqVnbqgidyGZtDaGTNkw2M/F3woSh3LGFiCs16MzpAFG3pKpCvoK4W9DebO2BuJMe6WHiB0i6kpJUcwNIu3VilzoEKK7vRFVTNwGqk2shKl7eEs BwhwCt7vYArAie7u+S+DoiI9K7EsWpa11kR+Rt+WyB2xegSVyWUNqfMQAAAABJRU5ErkJggg==); } /* twitter button*/ #twitternator i { background: url("data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAAC0AAAAoCAYAAABq13MpAAAGH0lEQVRYw +2Y30+TVxjHOTHOkUFCll0sXnFBNFmyhERvZrzo5S7J/APozW6WKU5BJz8LFkqopSDQX5ZSoFSkQPnpmNOBFGEotLQVms4RKlWrMClNxSb24ux53vZl/fECrh0/ sknyzVva857zeb/neZ7znpNCKU3ZSeScjEfy5Pz3aZusSJ4ih1xQGxnlKXhcbf5ufLYxO74DeQYpaLGQQj39pm1UkjTQ2SYeKHvL3y/c4JHiLkqEQ/TTmtveE9e HxdtCp15pW2AAzys3HU0r0VeRqp8ouTZKPxIOviEXm3OSgT5RNygmVzooKdBGjcPq4/Lu50Ryn5KmR5TUPWDgoW3LltBnuqbtRDRCSVkvNhwl +ZrMI5VDG6RhmhK5mRLpOD0s6PHDYBmJQj9+tZ57XGXyk+o7lAiMlPzY7iU/qASMy5da+aTmbmgspZUShYWS65MsuIATWmd/JmIaoQD +UOWwj9SOw81zlKhsoc6u/UpTyww6mEZjguBpjJOyGUoafmP6IxX9lBTdtHwiGn5Jrk +FgHE8lHKO4TkiHNhgHuz7hgwI48zIDrNO6ue8TEOm07DDbAconDYcSIDMibktefTUka6eC4bcnAvBozn1kyF3I8dDYRt80FIDPXRJa200PT4W1aHW/txAZLPhp 7RydGChuXeeuBdW/VOJQps962fSFA/fbfaPVzSKEceY7CxLTfQrzYTrS0nfKcbyiE6zc0ecbqYDjpvTVbPBP7wb +dDu8yQSMu27X5zOo632wJaQHGb1Lb62LPveYjXJSkktaNaR81Ab8+SZ5HIb7wv1pHXT7Zgbb9hePMJB/4V6zP/27hM7ZzjECgzMGXB40FB27JSlNb/gs8peMyn qpKQcMloyFhfL6c3WoGT2mQNuOP3Pa3NjNiiu4vy8uJJ/VGPe0W2cXdPyWnVs9UB6qeShy3FcO +Nnki0cHukaWzDn9hPP4z/f3IM2XyfoatbhgpZxWOGkuMLBjPLIRTU/VTjwgKlU20Bjwo65vfdjwzGyc4S6ARqN0CDocpIxnPLM91Z2UnlvCisAIyxz4nuhasQF Dd8d1doCYeCsLReXXRbO5uW+319ZTnaYvUyZYxeRGNjj+nm/xPwCQ/EmF/BeQm9WJwzFlbfvTFgNzt13LZ0bf7qEV83Cin3h9cZUeLa3DcW9ho50Hh +AH6HT7xuG+wWdlD5Af4D+X0IXFxfzSkpK +AcOuqioKG7vBqAZQqHQUlNTQ7u7uyUHDrq6unoBAcvKyjYdFYvFVXK5nGo0GtrU1PSmoqIi50BBDw0N2RUKBa2rq6MAP3r16tVMmUy2odfrqcFgoK2trbS +vt4PD5VxYKCdTqdIp9NRlFKppADs02q1GBa0t7eXAUfHpVKpTiAQGA9KImYNDw97e3p66K1btyjrMAKz6uzsZMDBcbpbQKWlpTnl5eVGFHzm7Vg9wG1DV1cXA4 jwkcCs25OTk+61tbWE9ohYhUBbHtbADPIkEgnmD1WpVN6Wlhbuw5rCwsKoPeLExISbCxgFoRL0+XwJ7xHVarUYEp7GJjwryKfnGJI4o +3t7Qw8tI0/rIEvdTglUN4yq6qqeOCmlXU71mWYiaT2iKurq7kQen5wkQkxkUjkBXeZgxgYmw8PxYyDpuEV8ysMHn1Ys76+LmhsbDRDeWM6gimJi2Wj0Ricn59P aI8Y +0qKTrI5g/nR0NBAYWwLlNaXHR0dUWGJn8PgzGENRgWsJ5mbe0Sbzebo6+vzY4fsjf39/UGTyeTxer3J7BGjZLfbHWgCjoGVCeHxQRAu1qxwSDK/19bW0srKSuv 09PSxPdkjRmplZeUMhN871hi8Roorl/Bh2tra8OqCcnxqX3YtUIGcg4ODga0guaCXl5ctfr8/dFizTwsEH8DtXOEQK3ywsbGx6MOa3QbEFzFQ3NIPzuVDbO/oNv we9Hg81Xv9Pp0FJWscVjgprnBQWnnw4sWHivUAk287aExYAN72sGbXBLEog3I2hRUAhWWuubmZRlaq2JAYGBgIhIH397DG5XJZIAG97HtNLDD +PzIy4nfA34E7rAkEAia3222ZmZlZmp2dXcLr4uKiHRa6/+5hzV9kwTJynia+aQAAAABJRU5ErkJggg==") no-repeat -24px 0; height: 18px; width: 20px; margin-left: 8px; }