Heart attacks or cardiac arrests occur when the blood supply to the heart is suddenly blocked by a blood clot (thrombus or embolus). It is very important to seek medical care after experiencing a heart attack. Patients with angina are more likely to experience a heart attack, stroke, or cardiac arrest. Families of heart patients should be trained by their cardiologists on emergency care and life-saving first aid techniques.
Symptoms of heart attack
Patients of heart attack present with a variety of symptoms that may include the following;
- The patient may complain of chest discomfort, squeezing, fullness, pressure or pain over the left side of the body that may last for more than a few minutes
- Pressure or pain in the left arm and shoulder extending over the back, jaws, neck, and breastbone
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweats
- Indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting
- Light-headedness, dizziness, and fainting
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
What are the risk factors for a heart attack?
According to the American Association of Heart Diseases, over 7 million Americans have suffered from a heart attack each year. Coronary artery disease causes 760,000 heart attacks annually and is responsible for the death of 630,000 individuals.
Several risk factors are associated with heart disease including the following;
- Males are more vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases than females.
- Advancing age
- Family history of heart diseases
- Postmenopausal women
African Americans, African Indians, and Mexican Americans are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than Caucasians.
Controllable risk factors
The following are some of the risk factors that can be prevented;
- The high serum concentration of HDL or bad cholesterol
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure over a longer duration
- Physical inactivity
- Obesity (BMI above 25 should be taken seriously)
- High level of C- reactive proteins
- Uncontrolled stress, depression, and anxiety
- Poor diet
- Use of steroids and other drugs
- Overuse of alcohol
How can I lower my risk of heart disease?
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a proven method of reducing your risk of developing heart disease. It will improve your physical and emotional well-being and reduce your risk of many fatal diseases.
Smokers are two times at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases than non-smokers. It is the leading cause of death in heart patients but it is a preventable risk factor. Non-smokers who are constantly exposed to cigarette smoke are also at an increased risk of developing heart diseases.
Improve your cholesterol level
An increased serum cholesterol level leads to the formation of thrombi in the blood vessels (atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis), which leads to a heart attack. Normal serum cholesterol (HDL) should be less than 200 mg/dL and LDL should be less than 130 mg/dL in healthy adults. Your cardiologist and primary care physician should keep track of your cholesterol levels so they can assess the risk of heart disease. Diets should be low in cholesterol and especially avoid consuming foods rich in high-density lipids.
Remember, heart diseases can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle in 80-90% of cases. It can significantly prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Control high blood pressure
Hypertension is the most common risk factor, affecting about 67 million people in the United States. According to a recent survey report, nearly one in every three adults has a systolic blood pressure of over 130 mm of Hg and diastolic blood pressure of over 80 mm of Hg. It is important to control blood pressure through diet, exercise, weight management, salt control, and medications.
It is important to keep your blood sugar level within the normal range. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause a variety of health problems and can lead to cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Diabetes can be effectively controlled with the assistance of a primary care physician. It can be managed by a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and regularly taking the medications prescribed by your primary care specialist. Try to participate in various physical activities and help in household tasks like gardening, cooking, etc. It is highly recommended to perform 30 minutes of exercise daily. Participate in aerobic exercises like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and jogging. Consult your cardiologist before starting any exercise or vigorous physical activity.
Eat healthily; live healthily
Plan your meals by taking the advice of your cardiologist or primary care physician. Maintaining a healthy diet, low in sodium, cholesterol, saturated and trans fats, and refined sugars. Consume fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid processed and fatty food items. Increase your uptake of vitamins and antioxidants.
Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity increases the workload of the heart and puts significant stress on the body. It is also the root cause of many fatal diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and triglycerides.
The inability to manage stress, anger, and anxiety can lead to heart attacks, stroke,s, and cerebral hemolysis. Always try to be happy and content and do not let stress and negativity control your life. Learn to manage stress by practicing stress management and relaxation techniques, set realistic goals so that you are not disappointed in the end, and plan and divide your time effectively. You can take the aid of relaxing exercises such as yoga, which is proven to relieve stress and anxiety.
How can you help the victim of a heart attack?
Call 911 or your local ambulance service
If you do not have access to emergency medical services, seek the help of a friend or neighbor and immediately visit the nearest primary care center or hospital. Driving yourself should be the last option.
Chew and swallow aspirin
Aspirin can help relieve the symptoms unless you are allergic or your cardiologist has stopped you from using it.
If you suspect that you are experiencing a heart attack, nitroglycerin can be life-saving. But do not take anyone else’s nitroglycerin since that can put your life in danger.
Begin CPR if the patient is unconscious
Immediately start chest compressions if the patient is unconscious, do not wait for anyone else. Call 911 for assistance, they can guide you with the steps until help arrives.
– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.
About The AuthorDr. Syra Hanif M.D.
Board Certified Primary Care Physician
Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.Read More