Heart disease is the number one cause of death for American men and women. This disorder claims an estimated million lives each year. Heart disease is a term that refers to several conditions, such as problems with heart rhythm, coronary heart disease, and congenital heart defects. Heart disease can result in a heart attack.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack occurs when a section of the heart muscle becomes blocked, preventing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. If the blood flow is not quickly restored, the muscle in the blocked section of the heart begins to die. Although heart attacks can be fatal, the good news is that excellent treatment options are now available, and they can save lives. Heart attack treatment is most effective if the treatment is given immediately after symptoms occur.
Heart attack symptoms
The basic symptoms of a heart attack are the same for both men and women, though there may be some variations. Early heart attack symptoms in men include difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, sudden weakness in the limbs, unusually high level of fatigue, chills or cold sweats, and dizziness. Heart attack symptoms in women include difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, an unusual level of fatigue, disturbed sleep, feelings like indigestion, and anxiety. Both male and female can experience chest tightness, pressure in the chest, and pain in the chest, jaw, shoulders, upper arms or back.
Risk factors for a heart attack
Because heart disease causes a build-up of plaque in the arteries, this blocks the blood vessels. Plaque not only increases the risk of a heart attack but also increases the risk of angina and stroke. Risk factors for a heart attack include high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, stress, elevated cholesterol levels, family history of heart attack, insufficient exercise, and age over 65.
How to prevent a heart attack
Several measures can be taken to reduce the risk of heart attack:
- Exercise for 30-40 minutes three to five times per week
- Quit smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat meals regularly
- Eat a well-balanced low-fat diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Lower salt intake
Any person who suspects symptoms of a heart attack should call an ambulance immediately. No attempt should be made to drive to the hospital. Chewing on aspirin while waiting for the medics to arrive may help the flow of blood to the heart and reduce the risk of clots developing.