The INTERHEART study (2004) analyzed heart attack risk factors in 30,000 people from 52 countries. Results pointed to nine major risk factors—all controllable—that authors say account for about 90 percent of heart attacks in men and 94 percent in women.

  1. Cigarette smoking nearly triples your chances of a heart attack compared to those who never smoked.
  2. High blood pressure or hypertension—defined as 140/90 mm Hg or greater—doubles your chances of having a heart attack.
  3. High LDL, low HDL triples your risk of heart attack. LDL cholesterol is a major component of arterial plaque; good HDL cholesterol helps clean the arteries.
  4. Diabetes, a condition marked by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood, more than doubles your chances of having a heart attack.
  5. Abdominal obesity, defined as a waist size greater than 35 inches for women and 40 for men, increases heart attack risk by 62 percent.
  6. Depression and anxiety more than doubles your risk of heart attack or stroke.
  7. A sedentary lifestyle accounts for 12 percent of heart attacks. Regular exercise lowers your risk by 14 percent.
  8. Too much or too little alcohol can increase risk. The right amount, with your doctor's OK: Two drinks a day for men and one for women reduces heart attack risk by 10 percent.
  9. Too few fruits & vegetables boosts risks. People who eat produce daily are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 18 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 02 Oct 2014