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The ABCs of Heart Attack Prevention

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Dr. Roger Blumenthal and his cardiovascular team at Johns Hopkins offer guidelines to help you maintain a healthy heart.

You can modify or treat most of the risk factors associated with a heart attack or stroke. Here’s an easy-to-remember checklist of five primary prevention measures for people without symptoms of (or a history of) coronary heart disease.


  • Heart Attack Prevention Tip #1: Take low-dose aspirin. Goal: Low-dose aspirin (81 mg per day) for men ages 45 to 79 whose risk of a heart attack exceeds their risk of gastrointestinal bleeding from aspirin. Not recommended solely to prevent heart attacks in women. However, aspirin can be considered for stroke prevention in women ages 55 to 79 if their risk of a stroke exceeds their risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Be sure to consult with a physician before starting aspirin therapy.
  • Heart Attack Prevention Tip #2: Keep your blood pressure under control. Goal: <140/90 mm Hg (ideal is <120/80 mm Hg); <130/80 mm Hg for people with diabetes or kidney disease. If you cannot reach this goal after three months of lifestyle changes, you may benefit from medication to prevent a heart attack.
  • Heart Attack Prevention Tip #3: Lower your cholesterol. Goal: Total cholesterol <200 mg/dL; LDL cholesterol <160 mg/dL for people with no more than one risk factor for a heart attack; LDL <130 mg/dL for those with two or more risk factors; LDL <100 mg/dL (with an optional goal of <70 mg/dL) for people with diabetes, history of stroke or aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease, or coronary heart disease; HDL >40 mg/dL for men and HDL >50 mg/dL for women (and preferably >60 mg/dL for both men and women); triglycerides <150 mg/dL. If you cannot reach your LDL goal after three months of lifestyle changes, consider drug therapy to lower your LDL. Exercise, improvements in diet, and quitting smoking can help you meet your HDL goals.
  • Heart Attack Prevention Tip #4: Watch your diet. Goal: Consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish, legumes, poultry, and lean meats. Saturated fats should make up <7% of total calories. If overweight, reduce caloric intake and increase physical activity to achieve and maintain a desirable body weight (body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9). For those who drink, limit alcohol intake (no more than two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women).
  • Heart Attack Prevention Tip #5: Walk or do some form of exercise every day. Goal: Perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) at least five days of the week. More vigorous activity can provide additional benefits, including weight loss if caloric expenditure exceeds caloric intake.


Posted in Heart Health on May 7, 2010
Reviewed February 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer

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Health Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the Johns Hopkins editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Johns Hopkins Medicine or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.

Dr. Blumenthal omitted listing one of the most important heart attack prevention tips - make sure that you don't have sleep apnea!

Burton Abrams

Posted by: Burt Abrams | May 10, 2010 7:39 AM

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