Family history of heart attack, advanced age, smoking and high blood pressure all increase the risk for heart attack, notes the American Heart Association. Additionally, inactivity, diabetes, high cholesterol and stress can also lead to a heart attack.
Age, family history and gender are risk factors that cannot be changed, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. After age 45 (55 for women), the risk for heart attack increases. If a parent or sibling developed heart disease before age 55 (65 for a mother or sister), the risk for heart attack increases. The American Heart Association notes men are at higher risk for heart attack in general, and usually earlier in life than women.
Some factors for heart attack can be controlled, including smoking and high cholesterol, notes the American Heart Association. Smokers should quit, and smoking cessation tools are available through health care professionals or through community organizations. Inactivity can lead to obesity, which can then lead to high blood pressure, and all three increase the risk for heart attack. Moderate to strenuous exercise and good nutrition can help obesity, and good nutrition can also reduce the risk of heart attack from diabetes and high cholesterol. Good nutrition consists of a well-balanced diet of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fiber and lean proteins. Other lifestyle changes that can decrease the risk for heart attack include reducing alcohol intake to no more than one to two drinks per day and reducing stress.