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Prevention - Heart attack

The best way to prevent having a heart attack is to make changes to your lifestyle.

There are 3 main steps you can take to help prevent a heart attack:


To lower the risk of a heart attack you should eat 2 to 4 portions of oily fish a week. Oily fish contains a type of fatty acid known as omega-3. This can help lower your cholesterol levels.

Good sources of omega-3 include:

  • herring
  • sardines
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • trout

Never take a food supplement without first consulting your GP. Some supplements, such as beta-carotene, could be harmful to you.

It's also recommended that you eat a Mediterranean-style diet.

This means eating more:

  • bread
  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • fish

You are also advised to eat less meat. Replace butter and cheese with products based on vegetable and plant oil, such as olive oil.

Foods to avoid

If you eat a diet high in fat, your risk of having a heart attack increases.

An unhealthy, high fat diet will make the hardening of your arteries worse. This is because fatty foods contain cholesterol.

There are also 2 types of fat – saturated and unsaturated.

Avoid foods containing high levels of saturated fat. They increase levels of bad cholesterol in your blood. This 'bad cholesterol' is known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter
  • ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
  • lard
  • cream
  • hard cheese
  • cakes and biscuits
  • foods that contain coconut or palm oil

Eating a small amount of unsaturated fat will increase the level of good cholesterol. This 'good cholesterol' is called high-density lipoprotein (HDL). It can help reduce any blockage in your arteries.

Foods high in unsaturated fat include:

  • oily fish
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds
  • sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil


Smoking is a major risk factor for heart attacks.

This is because it causes:

  • atherosclerosis (build up of plague in arteries)
  • raised blood pressure

If you decide to stop smoking, join the Quit plan online for support.

You can also call Quit on 1800 201 203.

Your GP can help you give up smoking. They can prescribe medical treatment to help with withdrawal symptoms.

Get help when you quit smoking

High blood pressure

Persistent high-blood pressure can put your arteries and heart under extra strain. This increases your risk of a heart attack.

You can reduce high blood pressure by:

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 25 March 2021
Next review due: 25 March 2024

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.