Understand Heart Attack Risk Factors And Symptoms
Understanding the risk factors associated with heart attacks can help seniors prepare and take control of their own health. People over the age of 65 are much more likely to experience problems with the heart. This can be attributed to factors associated with age, like decreased mobility, changes in blood vessels, and more. Other important risk factors include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol
- Having diabetes
- A family history of cardiovascular complications
Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms associated with heart-related emergencies can help prevent a disaster. Seniors who experience any changes in breathing, heart rate, etc. should discuss these symptoms immediately with their medical team. The warning signs of a heart attack, however, should never be ignored. Seniors should seek immediate medical attention when experiencing any of the following heart attack symptoms:
- An extreme or crushing pain/pressure in the chest, upper body, neck, and/or arms
- Shortness of breath or inability to breathe
While seniors may be at an increased risk for cardiovascular problems, with the proper prevention, your senior loved one can live a long, heart-healthy life. For more on staying healthy and providing your senior loved one with the care they deserve, contact a Caring team near you today.
Identify The Root Cause Of Your Heart Attack
While we know that poor diet and lack of movement play a significant role in the development of heart disease, there are also other contributing factors, including:
- Disconnect from nature
- Loneliness and lack of joy
Preventing a second heart attack will require a deep dive into the factors that contributed to the first heart attack. For example, is your job too stressful? Do sleep difficulties, such as sleep apnea, contribute to your poor heart health?
Its also essential to ensure that you have comprehensive labs drawn. Unfortunately, most conventional doctors or hospitals do not delve into the root cause of illness. Crucial labs to consider after a heart attack include:
- Inflammatory markers:
Immediately following a heart attack, you can expect an increase in inflammation. However, inflammation should normalize shortly after that.
Increased levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in the blood have been linked with a risk of heart attacks. Moreover, elevated levels after a heart attack increase the risk of a subsequent heart attack. High homocysteine levels have also been correlated with heart inflammation and an elevated risk of heart attacks.
- Apolipoprotein B :
- Lipoprotein A ):
Lp is a low-density lipoprotein that transports cholesterol in the blood. Lp is an independent risk factor for heart disease, and higher levels of Lp indicate an increased risk for heart attacks.
- Hemoglobin A1C :
Other labs to consider after a heart attack include:
Learn The Warning Signs
You may already have heart disease and not know it if you haven’t been keeping up with your doctor appointments. If you have any symptoms like pressure or squeezing in your chest or shortness of breath, then you may have angina, an early sign that you have heart disease. Go to the doctor for a full assessment.
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Keep Stress Levels Low
More research is needed to understand exactly how stress contributes to heart disease, but scientists have observed a relationship between stress and heart health. For starters, high levels of chronic stress can trigger unhealthy coping habits, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or eating lots of high-fat or high-sugar food. Stress also undermines your body’s ability to rest and sleep.
Researchers have even identified a specific and unusual sort of heart attack called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as stress cardiomyopathy and “broken heart syndrome.” This condition has been linked to emotional trauma, but many patients with this condition exhibit no identifiable cause.
So, don’t underestimate the impact of stress on your heart. While stress is inevitable and unavoidable at times, it helps to have a handful of stress-relief tactics to rely on in times of extreme duress.
Healthy Eating And Cardiovascular Disease Risk
Eating a variety of foods is good for our health and can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease.
The Heart Foundation recommends people follow a heart-healthy eating pattern:
- Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains.
- Include a variety of healthy protein-rich foods, especially fish and seafood, legumes , nuts and seeds. Eggs and poultry can also be enjoyed as part of a heart-healthy eating pattern. If you eat red meat, choose lean cuts and limit to one to three times per week.
- Choose unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese. If you have heart disease or high cholesterol, choose reduced fat varieties.
- Include healthy fats and oils. Choose nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking.
- Add herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt.
This way of eating is naturally low in unhealthy fats, salt and added sugar. Its rich in wholegrains, fibre, antioxidants and healthy fats.
Check out the Heart Foundation website for a range of resources to help you follow a heart-healthy eating pattern.
For individualised nutrition advice, you can also speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
- keep your bones and muscle strong
- make you feel more confident, happy and relaxed
- help you to sleep better.
If you have had a heart attack, regular physical activity will help you to recover more quickly. If you have diabetes, it will also help you to manage your blood sugar levels.
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Walking For Heart Health
Walking is a great activity for heart health. Getting involved with a Heart Foundation Walking group is a fun and social way to be active. You can also register for a free Personal Walking Plan. Visit Heart Foundation Walking for more information.
Walking for an average of 30 minutes or more a day can:
- lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
- reduce the risk of some cancers
- maintain bone density reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures
- improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and other injuries.
Avoid High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, puts mechanical stress on the walls of your arteries, causing them to narrow and stiffen. The stress can increase the development of plaque and ultimately cause your heart muscle to get weaker and thicker over time. It can also cause blood vessels in your brain to rupture, leading to a stroke. Ideally your blood pressure should be no higher than 120/80. The top number is your systolic pressure, the pressure when your heart is contracting, and the lower number is your diastolic pressure, when your heart is at rest. Keeping those numbers in check is critical. Hypertension is a leading cause of heart attacks, and the single-most important risk factor for strokes. Almost a third of the adult population in the United States has the condition but about 20 percent of them dont know it.
Youre especially vulnerable to hypertension if you:
- meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that both aerobic exercise and resistance training significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
- Watch your salt and your sugar intake. The World Health Organization recommends keeping your salt intake to no more than five grams per day to reduce hypertension. The average intake in many countries is double that amount. Studies have found that a high sugar intake is also linked to hypertension.
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Limit Added Sugar Intake
Added sugars are in countless processed foods and sugary drinks. Excessive added sugar intake can raise your blood pressure and lead to inflammation which is both linked with increased heart disease risk.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 24 grams per day for women and no more than 36 grams per day for men.
What Happens During A Heart Attack
A heart attack happens when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. Symptoms of a heart attack include shortness of breath, discomfort in the left side of the chest, and pain in your upper extremities. Heart attack symptoms can differ between men and women for example, women are more likely to experience unexplained fatigue or nausea during heart attacks.
Heart attacks are generally caused by CAD, or coronary artery disease. After a lifetime of cholesterol buildup in your arteries, your arteries harden and can be damaged. Heart attacks damage your heart, too, particularly if you wait for treatment. Waiting to address heart attack symptoms can be fatal, so its important to pay attention to your body if youre at risk of a heart attack.
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Be More Physically Active
Combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way of maintaining a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure.
Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level, and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
Exercising regularly reduces your risk of having a heart attack. The heart is a muscle and, like any other muscle, benefits from exercise. A strong heart can pump more blood around your body with less effort.
Any aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming and dancing, makes your heart work harder and keeps it healthy.
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Lower High Blood Pressure
It’s a major risk factor for stroke a leading cause of disability in the United States. Stroke recovery is difficult at best and you could be disabled for life. Shake that salt habit, take your medications as recommended by your doctor and get moving. Those numbers need to get down and stay down. An optimal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg.
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What Are The Heart Disease Risk Factors That I Cannot Change
- Age. Your risk of heart disease increases as you get older. Men age 45 and older and women age 55 and older have a greater risk.
- Sex. Some risk factors may affect heart disease risk differently in women than in men. For example, estrogen provides women some protection against heart disease, but diabetes raises the risk of heart disease more in women than in men.
- Race or ethnicity. Certain groups have higher risks than others. African Americans are more likely than whites to have heart disease, while Hispanic Americans are less likely to have it. Some Asian groups, such as East Asians, have lower rates, but South Asians have higher rates.
- Family history. You have a greater risk if you have a close family member who had heart disease at an early age.
Choose Plants More Often
You don’t have to become a vegetarian to have a healthier heart, but if you want to keep heart disease at bay it’s important to switch from eating lots of meat to eating mostly plants. Some lean meats and lots of fish are fine, but loading up on fruits and veggies will make your heart happier in the long run.
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Control Type 2 Diabetes
The new advice also takes a stronger position on controlling blood sugar and recommends incorporating not just first-line drugs like metformin to treat diabetes, but also newer classes of medications, such as SGLT-2 inhibitors, which prevent the bodys cells from reabsorbing glucose and push them to excrete it instead, and GLP-1R agonists, which burn off more glucose in muscle cells and promote the pancreas to produce more insulin to break down blood sugar.
What You Can Do To Prevent A Heart Attack
In this article
You want whats best for your heart. And its simpler than you might think. These lifestyle changes can help prevent a heart attack and heart disease.
Eat to be your best. Add plenty of fruits and veggies, grains, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like fresh tuna or herring to your diet. Cut down on salt, saturated fats, sweets, and red meats. Avoid trans fats and food with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated ingredients. Variety in your diet is a good way to get all the nutrients you need.
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Take it easy. Find a relaxation method that works for you. Yoga, meditation, dedicated time to unwind after work — these can help keep your stress levels down. Stressful emotions such as anger and hostility may also lead to heart attack risk, so keep calm and be cool.
Ban smoking. If you never started smoking, thats perfect! If you already quit, excellent. If you still smoke, stop. Talk to your doctor to find out what method will work best for you. Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of heart disease. Start now. In just 1 year you can reduce your risk of a heart attack.
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When Do I Do If Someone Else Has A Heart Attack
An easy-to-use device called an AED is available in many public places and can be used by almost anyone to treat cardiac arrest. This device works by shocking the heart back into a normal rhythm.
Hereâs how to use an AED:
1. Check responsiveness
- For an adult or older child, shout and shake the person to confirm whether theyâre unconscious. Do not use AED on a conscious person.
- For an infant or young child, pinch their skin. Never shake a young child.
- Check breathing and pulse. If absent or uneven, prepare to use the AED as soon as possible.
2. Prepare to use AED
- Make sure the person is in a dry area and away from puddles or water.
- Check for body piercings or outline of an implanted medical device, such as a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator.
- AED pads must be placed at least 1 inch away from piercings or implanted devices.
3. Use AED
For newborns, infants, and children up to age 8, use a pediatric AED, if possible. If not, use an adult AED.
- Turn on the AED.
- Plug in connector, if necessary.
- Make sure no one is touching the person.
- Push the âAnalyzeâ button.
- If a shock is advised, check again to make sure no one is touching the person.
- Push the âShockâ button.
- Start or resume continue compressions.
- Follow AED prompts.
4. Continue CPR
Depression Anxiety Social Isolation And Cardiovascular Disease Risk
Studies have shown that having a mental health condition like depression or anxiety can increase the risk of developing heart disease. People who are socially isolated or do not have good social support are also at greater risk of developing heart disease.
Having social connections, healthy personal relationships and being part of a community are essential to maintain your mental health. Being physically active is one of the most effective ways to improve both your heart health and your mental health.
Depression and anxiety can be treated. If youre feeling lonely, isolated, worried, or depressed, talk to you doctor and reach out to friends and family. You can also get more information and support from Beyond Blue.
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Understanding Your Cardiovascular Disease Risk Score
Your cardiovascular disease risk score estimates your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. Your risk score is calculated by combining your risk factors. This is a bit like putting all the pieces of a puzzle together so you can see the whole picture. By looking at the whole picture, your doctor can discuss ways to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Your risk score is calculated as part of a Heart Health Check with your doctor . Regular Heart Health Checks can help you better understand your risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next five years, and what you can do to manage your risk.
A Heart Health Check is a 20-minute check up with your GP which is subsidised by Medicare. As part of the Heart Health check, your GP will ask you about your medical and family history of heart disease as well as your lifestyle, including your diet, physical activity, and if you smoke or drink alcohol. Your GP will also check your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Your GP will then take this information and use it to calculate your risk of a having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years and will support you to make positive changes to lower this risk.
People aged 45 years and over are eligible for a Heart Health Check.
If you identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, its recommended you see your doctor or Aboriginal Health Practitioner from age 18 to identify any heart disease risk factors as early as possible.
What Causes A Heart Attack
Heart attacks, referred to as myocardial infarctions in the medical world, occur when the blood supply to the heart is suddenly interrupted. When the blood that carries life-giving oxygen to the heart is blocked, the heart muscle becomes damaged and begins to die.
The primary cause of heart attacks is coronary artery disease . CAD occurs due to plaque accumulation on the blood vessel walls, better known as atherosclerosis. Much like pouring grease down the kitchen sink, the buildup of sticky plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, making it difficult for blood to get through to the heart.
In some instances, the arteries become so narrow that a complete blockage occurs. In others, plaque ruptures, leaving the artery wall and traveling to the heart, where it becomes lodged. Both instances lead to insufficient blood flow to the heart and, thus, a heart attack.
The two primary types of heart attacks are:
- ST-elevation myocardial infarction , the most serious type of heart attack, occurs when there is a complete blockage of a coronary artery.
- Non-ST elevation myocardial infarction occurs due to a partially blocked coronary artery. While less severe than a complete blockage, these heart attacks are more common.
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