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American Heart Association



National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Heart Health Basics

Risk Factors

Heart Conditions

Heart Attack

Warning Signs

Heart Health Tips

Image of a stethoscope with a heart.

Risk Factors You Can’t Change

•  You have had a heart attack or stroke.

•  Being male 45 years+ or female 55 years+

•  Heart disease in a father or brother before age 55; in a mother or sister before age 65

•  Race. African Americans have a higher risk than Caucasians.

Risk Factors You Can Control

•  Cigarette smoking. Secondhand smoke.

•  Blood pressure ≥ 140/90 mm Hg or you take medicine to lower high blood pressure

•  High risk levels for LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and/or triglycerides

•  Diabetes

•  Being overweight. Lack of exercise.

•  Other artery diseases (abdominal aortic aneurysm, carotid artery disease; peripheral artery disease)

•  Metabolic syndrome. This is having 3 or more of these problems:

– Waist size ≥ 40 inches for men; ≥ 35 inches for women

– Blood pressure ≥ 130 mm Hg systolic and/or ≥ 85 mm Hg diastotic or you take medicine to lower blood pressure

– A fasting blood sugar ≥ 100 mg/dL or you have diabetes

– Triglycerides ≥ 150 mg/dL

– HDL-cholesterol < 40 mg/dL for men; < 50 mg/dL for women

For any heart attack warning sign, call 9-1-1 or your local EMS.

Common Heart Attack Warning Signs

•  Feeling of pain (may spread to the arm, neck, jaw, tooth, or back), tightness, burning, squeezing, fullness, or heaviness in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back

•  Chest discomfort with fainting, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea, or sweating. Unusal chest, abdominal, or stomach pain.

•  Dizziness, nausea, trouble breathing, or arm or jaw pain without chest pain

•  Fast or uneven heartbeat or pulse; sweating for no reason; or pale, gray, or clammy skin

Signs More Likely to Occur in Women

•  An uneasy feeling in the chest with any problem listed above or with: Unexplained or extreme anxiety; unusual fatigue or weakness; fluttering hearbeats; or severe indigestion that does not go away with an antacid

Image of a man having a heart attack.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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