Are You at Risk for Heart Attack or Stroke?

You can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Start by becoming aware of your risk factors - the personal characteristics and habits that may increase your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Some risk factors you cannot change or control; some you can, by making a few changes in your daily habits or taking medicine as prescribed. You may be at an increased risk of heart attack or stroke if:


  • You are a man over 45 years old or a woman over 55 years old.
  • Your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55 or your mother or sister had one before age 65.
  • You have a close blood relative who had a stroke.
  • You smoke or you live with someone who smokes in your presence.
  • Your total cholesterol level is 240 mg/dL or higher.
  • Your HDL (good) cholesterol is less than 35 mg/dL.
  • Your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher or you have been told your blood pressure is too high.
  • You get less than 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
  • You are 20 pounds or more overweight.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have coronary heart disease or have previously had a heart attack.
  • You have carotid artery disease, have previously had a stroke, or have disease of the leg arteries.


The most common warning signs of a heart attack are:


  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes.
  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck, or arms.
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath.


Less common warning signs of heart attack are...


  • Atypical chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain.
  • Nausea or dizziness.
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing.
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness, or fatigue.
  • Palpitations, cold sweat, or paleness.


The most common warning signs of a stroke are:


  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.


Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies and every second counts. If you see or have any of the mentioned symptoms, or a combination of symptoms call 9-1-1 immediately. Treatment is more effective when given quickly.

Source: American Heart Association