What You Can Do Now
There are lifestyle changes that you can make to reduce your risk of a heart attack and increase your odds of surviving one.
According to the CDC, 47% of Americans have at least one of the three main risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly. If readings are high, you may be able to lower them with diet and physical activity, or your doctor may recommend medications to help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
In addition, these lifestyle changes can help:
- Quit smoking.
Emergency Testing For A Heart Attack
After you call 911 for a heart attack, paramedics will quickly assess your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. They also will place electrodes on your chest for an electrocardiogram to check your heart’s electrical activity.
When you arrive at the hospital, the emergency room doctor will take your history and do a physical examination, and a more complete ECG will be done. A technician will draw blood to test for cardiac enzymes, which are released into the bloodstream when heart cells die.
If your tests show that you are at risk of having or are having a heart attack, your doctor will probably recommend that you have cardiac catheterization. The doctor can then see whether your coronary arteries are blocked and how your heart functions.
If an artery appears blocked, angioplastyâa procedure to open up clogged arteriesâmay be done during the catheterization. Or you will be referred to a cardiovascular surgeon for coronary artery bypass graft surgery.
Some treatments and tests, such as cardiac catheterization, may be available only at regional medical centres. The tests and treatment your doctor chooses may depend on how close you are to a regional centre and the time it would take to transport you to the centre for treatment.
Have Sex When You’re Ready
You can resume sexual activity after a heart attack when you are healthy and feel ready for it. You could be ready if you can do mild or moderate activity, like brisk walking, without having angina symptoms. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns. Your doctor can help you know if your heart is healthy enough for sex.
If you take a nitrate, like nitroglycerin, do not take erection-enhancing medicines. Combining a nitrate with one of these medicines can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.
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Whats The Most Likely Day Of The Week To Have A Heart Attack
Researchers have shown that people are clearly more likely to have a heart attack on a Monday. In fact the same goes for sudden cardiac death from life threatening heart rhythm problems, and death from other heart diseases. These findings are mainly true for the working population and hold true for men and women however, this may not be true outside of the West. There is some evidence that in the Middle East the peak incidence of heart attacks is on Fridays, and in Japan it is during the weekend. This supports an explanation that relates to the working week and related stressors. Its possible that increased stress hormones triggered by the return to work can make heart plaques unstable and lead to a heart attack. There is no clear proof of that however.
Anatomy Of Your Heart
Your heart is in the center of your chest, near your lungs. It has four hollow heart chambers surrounded by muscle and other heart tissue. The chambers are separated by heart valves, which make sure that the blood keeps flowing in the right direction. Read more about heart valves in Blood Flow.
Anatomy of the interior of the heart. This image shows the four chambers of the heart and the direction that blood flows through the heart. Oxygen-poor blood, shown in blue-purple, flows into the heart and is pumped out to the lungs. Then oxygen-rich blood, shown in red, is pumped out to the rest of the body, with the help of the heart valves.
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What Causes A Heart Attack
A heart attack occurs when part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies from lack of oxygen. When a blockage occurs in your coronary arteries, blood and oxygen dont get to the heart. This can lead to a heart attack if it isnt treated quickly
Most heart attacks are a result of coronary heart or artery disease. A waxy substance called plaque builds up in the arteries. This is called atherosclerosis. It takes years for the plaque to build up. When the plaque breaks up, it travels through the blood stream. This creates blood clots. The clots slow or stop blood flow to the heart. Then the heart doesnt get enough oxygen. The tissue not receiving the oxygen begins to die.
Risk factors for a heart attack include:
- Gender. More men have heart attacks. But heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women.
A less common cause of heart attack is a severe spasm, or tightening, of a coronary artery. This can happen in an artery that doesnt have plaque build-up. Instead, the tightening cuts off the blood flow. Spasms arent as well understood as a cause for heart attack. They seem to be related to:
- Taking specific drugs, such as cocaine.
- Cigarette smoking.
- Severe emotional pain or stress.
What Should I Do If I Have Symptoms Of Heart Attack
If you think you may be having a heart attack, get treatment right away. Follow these steps:
- Dial 911 Do not have someone else drive you to the hospital. Do not try to drive yourself. EMTs can give you life-saving treatment in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
- After calling for help, take 1 uncoated adult aspirin or 4 uncoated baby aspirins . Dont take this if youre allergic to aspirin.
- If you are alone and are able, unlock your door to let emergency personnel enter your home.
- Sit in a comfortable chair and wait for help.
- Keep a phone near you.
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The Heart Becomes Strong
A heart is another muscle in your body. Physical fitness improves the strength of our body muscles, including the heart. Regular exercise of any muscle group improves its strength.
Similarly, in the case of the heart, strength is improved by heart-healthy exercises. A strong heart would be able to function properly. Heart attack prevention can be done by increasing its strength.
Causes Of Coronary Artery Disease
When you are young, your coronary arteries usually have smooth healthy walls. As you get older, the inner lining of your coronary arteries comes under attack from risk factors like toxins from cigarette smoke, mechanical injury from high blood pressure, high cholesterol or blood sugar from a diet high in saturated fats and sugars, and lack of exercise. These injuries start a chain of events that lead to the build-up of fatty streaks in your coronary arteries.
There are a number of factors that are known to increase your risk of coronary artery disease. Some risk factors you cant do anything about include age, ethnicity, gender, personal or family history of heart attack or stroke.
Other risk factors are within your power to change, such as smoking, high cholesterol, high blood sugar , high blood pressure, being overweight, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and poor mental health and wellbeing.
There are choices you can make today to better manage your coronary artery disease and help to lower your risk of having another heart attack.
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Reduces High Blood Pressure
Exercise is the perfect alternative to medicines in controlling high blood pressure. Hypertension or high blood pressure increases with age. It becomes important to indulge in some form of physical activity to control it.
Not only exercising but regular exercising is the key to reducing high BP. If you have moderate blood pressure, exercise can keep it that way. But you have high blood pressure, physical fitness can lower it for heart attack prevention.
What Four Things Happen Right Before A Heart Attack
Here are 4 signs of heart attack to be on the lookout for:
- #1: Chest Pain, Pressure, Squeezing, and Fullness.
- #2: Arm, Back, Neck, Jaw, or Stomach Pain or Discomfort.
- #3: Shortness of Breath, Nausea, and Lightheadedness.
- #4: Breaking Out in a Cold Sweat.
- Heart Attack Symptoms: Women vs Men.
- What Next?
- Next Steps.
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Heart Attack Symptoms In Women Vs Men
Women are more likely than men to have silent heart attacks and heart attacks without chest pain. Heart attacks are also more likely to start when a woman is at rest or experiencing mental stress.
That means its especially important for women to watch out for symptoms like shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, nausea or vomiting, or pain in the jaw, arms or back.
Also, we now know that young women are particularly prone to a type of heart event called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection , which we talk about in more depth below.
Take The Ehac Oath With Us
We encourage you to start taking care of your heart health today. We can kick this commitment off by taking the EHAC oath together.
I understand that heart attacks have beginnings and on occasion, signs of an impending heart attack may include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, shoulder and/or arm pain and weakness. These may occur hours or weeks before the actual heart attack. I solemnly swear that if happens to me or anyone I know I will call 9-1-1 or activate Emergency Medical Services.
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Catch The Signs Early
Dont wait to get help if you experience any of these heart attack warning signs. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call 911 if you experience:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs. Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Download the common heart attack warning signs infographic |
Control Cholesterol And Blood Pressure
To reduce your risk of a heart attack, you will need to control your cholesterol and manage your blood pressure. Quitting smoking, changing the way you eat, and getting more exercise can help. But if these things don’t work, you may also need to take medicines.
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Is My Heart Permanently Damaged
When a heart attack occurs, the heart muscle that has lost blood supply begins to suffer injury. The amount of damage to the heart muscle depends on the size of the area supplied by the blocked artery and the time between injury and treatment.
Heart muscle damaged by a heart attack heals by forming scar tissue. It usually takes several weeks for your heart muscle to heal. The length of time depends on the extent of your injury and your own rate of healing.
The heart is a very tough organ. Even though a part of it may have been severely injured, the rest of the heart keeps working. But, because of the damage, your heart may be weakened, and unable to pump as much blood as usual.
Learn more about heart damage detection.
In The Ambulance And Emergency Room
Treatment for a heart attack or unstable angina begins with medicines in the ambulance and emergency room. This treatment is similar for both. The goal is to prevent permanent heart muscle damage or prevent a heart attack by restoring blood flow to your heart as quickly as possible.
You may receive:
- Morphine for pain relief.
- Oxygen therapy to increase oxygen in your blood.
- Nitroglycerin to open up the arteries to the heart to help blood to flow to the heart.
- Beta-blockers to lower the heart rate, blood pressure, and the workload of the heart.
You also will receive medicines to stop blood clots so blood can flow to the heart. Some medicines will break up blood clots to increase blood flow. You might be given:
- Aspirin, which you chew as soon as possible after calling 911.
- Antiplatelet medicine.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Attack
The major symptoms of a heart attack are
- Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint. You may also break out into a cold sweat.
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders.
- Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort.
Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms. Learn more about women and heart disease.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.1Learn more facts about heart attack and heart disease.
When Do Most Heart Attacks Occur
From the outside, a heart attack can seem very sudden. But from the inside — like inside an artery — it’s actually pretty predictable.
Clogged arteries, also called coronary artery disease , are the primary cause of heart attacks . Arteries get clogged by something called plaque, a fatty substance that builds up on artery walls. Plaque often builds up when there’s too much fat and cholesterol in the diet — and too much cholesterol in the blood. Essentially, stuff starts sticking to the artery walls of the heart as blood passes through, and eventually a blood clot can form. If it’s big enough, that clot can block the artery entirely.
In a heart attack, oxygen supply to the heart has been cut off, resulting in damage to or death of heart muscle. The heart stops pumping if the blood flow isn’t immediately restored. When it stops pumping, that’s a heart attack. In the United States, about 1.1 million people suffer heart attacks every year, and about half of those heart attacks result in death .
Heart attacks seldom happen without some kind of warning. They can often be explained by medical history, including high cholesterol or high blood pressure, or by a family history of heart disease. But can they also be explained by external circumstances, like time of year or time of day? Are there certain occasions that pose greater risk for people with heart disease?
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What Is Angina And Why Is Unstable Angina A Concern
Angina is a symptom of coronary artery disease. Angina occurs when there is not enough blood flow to the heart. Angina can be dangerous. So it is important to pay attention to your symptoms, know what is typical for you, learn how to control it, and know when to call for help.
Symptoms of angina include chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest. Some people feel pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms.
There are two types of angina:
- Stable angina means that you can usually predict when your symptoms will happen. You probably know what things cause your angina. For example, you know how much activity usually causes your angina. You also know how to relieve your symptoms with rest or nitroglycerin.
- Unstable angina means that your symptoms have changed from your typical pattern of stable angina. Your symptoms do not happen at a predictable time. For example, you may feel angina when you are resting. Your symptoms may not go away with rest or nitroglycerin.
Unstable angina is an emergency. It may mean that you are having a heart attack.
What Is New In Heart Attack
Greater public awareness about heart attacks and changes in lifestyle have contributed to a dramatic reduction in the incidence of heart attacks during the last four decades. The role of the “super aspirins” has been established to be of benefit in selected patients.
More effective versions of clot-busting drugs have been developed. Increasingly, paramedics can do ECGs in the field, diagnose a heart attack, and take patients directly to hospitals that have the ability to do PTCA and stenting. This can save time and reduce damage to the heart. At present, the accepted best treatment for a heart attack is identification promptly of the diagnosis, and transport to a hospital that can perform prompt catheterization and PTCA or stenting within the first 90 minutes of the cardiac event .
Recent data has shown that lowering blood LDL levels even further than previously suggested may further decrease the risk of heart attacks.
Research also has shown that inflammation may play a role in the development of atherosclerosis, and this is an active area of current investigation. There also is early evidence that with genetic engineering it may be possible to develop a drug that can be administered to clear plaques from arteries .