Heart attack risk factors

  • Knowing your risks is the first step to avoiding a heart attack or stroke. There’s no one cause for heart disease, but there are risk factors that increase your chance of developing it. 

    You might not know you have some of these risk factors. The best way to find out your overall risk is to see your GP for a heart health check

    Risks you can’t change

    There are a few risks you can’t do much about:

    • Age: As you get older, your risk of heart disease increases.
    • Gender: Men are at higher risk of heart disease. Women’s risk grows and may be equal to men after menopause.
    • Ethnic background: People of some origins such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or people from the Indian sub-continent, have higher risk.
    • Family history: If someone in your family has had a heart attack, speak to your GP about your risk.

    Risks you can change

    Most heart disease risk factors can be changed, and there’s plenty you can do about them:

  • Smoking


    Being smoke free is one of the best ways to protect your heart. If you are a smoker, you should stop.

    Read about smoking and your heart
  • High cholesterol

    High cholesterol

    An imbalance of cholesterol in your blood can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

    More about blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure

    High blood pressure

    Blood pressure isn’t usually something you can feel. If it’s too high, it needs to be treated.

    More about blood pressure
  • Diabetes


    It’s important to manage your diabetes to help prevent a heart attack or stroke. 

    For more information see Diabetes Australia
  • Being inactive

    Being inactive

    Not getting enough physical activity isn’t good for your heart health. 

    Be more active
  • Being overweight

    Being overweight

    Being overweight or obese increases your risk of heart disease.

    How to be a healthy weight
  • Unhealthy diet

    Unhealthy diet

    Eating a varied diet of healthy foods can help with your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.

    More about healthy eating
  • Depression and social isolation

    Depression and social isolation

    There can be a greater risk of heart disease for people who have depression, are socially isolated or do not have good social support. 

    See Beyondblue for more information