The most prominent risk factors for myocardial infarction are older age, actively smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein levels. Many risk factors of myocardial infarction are shared with coronary artery disease, the primary cause of myocardial infarction, with other risk factors including male sex, low levels of physical activity, a past family history, obesity, and alcohol use.
Risk factors for myocardial disease are often included in risk factor stratification scores, such as the Framingham risk score. At any given age, men are more at risk than women for the development of cardiovascular disease. High levels of blood cholesterol is a known risk factor, particularly high low-density lipoprotein, low high-density lipoprotein, and high triglycerides.
Many risk factors for myocardial infarction are potentially modifiable, with the most important being tobacco smoking (including secondhand smoke). Smoking appears to be the cause of about 36% and obesity the cause of 20% of coronary artery disease. Lack of physical activity has been linked to 7–12% of cases. Less common causes include stress-related causes such as job stress, which accounts for about 3% of cases, and chronic high stress levels.
There is varying evidence about the importance of saturated fat in the development of myocardial infarctions. Eating polyunsaturated fat instead of saturated fats has been shown in studies to be associated with a decreased risk of myocardial infarction, while other studies find little evidence that reducing dietary saturated fat or increasing polyunsaturated fat intake affects heart attack risk.Dietary cholesterol does not appear to have a significant effect on blood cholesterol and thus recommendations about its consumption may not be needed. Trans fats do appear to increase risk. Acute and prolonged intake of high quantities of alcoholic drinks (3–4 or more daily) increases the risk of a heart attack.