What can I do to lower my heart attack risk?
Q: How can I prevent a heart attack?
Two of the most important things you can do to lower your heart attack risk are to eat a diet low in saturated fat and exercise regularly.
Research indicates that a plant-based diet is the best type of diet for preventing coronary disease and heart attacks. However, it can be challenging to follow. In general, I recommend:
- Getting proteins from plants, as much as possible
- Eating as little meat as possible; restrict red meat to once a month and other meat to less than once a week
- Avoiding dairy fat and fatty meat products such as sausage, pepperoni, hamburgers, and bacon
- Consuming cold-water fish (trout, salmon, halibut, tuna), which have lots of omega-3 fatty acids and help protect the heart
- Incorporating plant-based omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, for example flax seeds and chia seeds.
Exercise is also crucial because it strengthens heart muscles, improves blood flow around the heart, lowers blood pressure, flushes out bad cholesterol, helps regulate blood sugar, and contributes to a healthy weight.
It’s best to strive for 150 minutes of exercise every week—the amount of physical activity known to prevent heart disease. Going on a brisk walk, doing heavy yardwork, dancing, hiking, and swimming laps are all great forms of exercise. If that amount of exercise sounds unattainable, try not to forego exercise all together. Get out and walk for 5 or 10 minutes or set movement goals for each day. Work up to more activity. Every bit counts.
—Dipesh Pokharel, MD
Dr. Dipesh Pokharel is a cardiologist at Vancouver Clinic. He is board certified in nuclear cardiology and echocardiography. Dr. Pokharel is dedicated to helping patients prevent, manage, and understand cardiovascular diseases.