What causes Heart Attack? Symptoms and Prevention of a heart attack
If you are experiencing a heart attack or stroke, contact your emergency response system immediately. If you are with someone who is experiencing this symptom drive them to the hospital immediately.
- Central crushing chest pain
- Heavy sweating
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Cold, clammy feeling hands
- shortness of breath and lightheadedness
- Feeling of indigestion
- Dizziness, weakness, and fainting
- Abdominal pain
Some of the known risk factors for heart attacks are:
- Tobacco Smoking: Smokers carry 3-6 fold greater risk of developing heart attack than a non-smoker. The Nicotine, Carbon monoxide and other poisonous substances in tobacco cause damage to the vessel wall, increase the Blood Pressure and increase the fatty acid level in the blood-all leading to enhanced atherosclerosis (hardening of vessels). They also increase the heart rate and cause irregularity of the heart beat which can lead to sudden death. Even passive smoking (you, a non-smoker, as a bystander inhaling tobacco smoke breathed out by a smoker) is considered equally damaging. Smoking beedies, cigars and pipes are as bad as Cigarette smoking. Chewing tobacco as well as using snuff is considered to be harmful.
- High Cholesterol: Increased level of cholesterol (Fat) in the blood increases the incidence of hardening of arteries and thus increases the chance of developing heart attack. Though the level of total cholesterol in the blood is important, it is more important to know the level of different types of cholesterol. Mainly there are two types of cholesterol which are concerned with atherosclerosis. They are LDL and HDL cholesterols.
- LDL Cholesterol level will increase by excessive consumption of fats derived from animal sources – cream of the milk, butter, ghee, ice cream, yolk of the egg, organ meats like liver, brain and kidney and shell fishes like prawn and crab. Coconut oil is equally bad. Vegetable oils like gingily oil and sun flower oil which contain high level of unsaturated fatty acids are preferable.
- HDL cholesterol is increased by regular physical exercise. Increasing the level of HDL cholesterol protects the heart.
- High Blood Sugar; Uncontrolled high blood sugar has also been shown to accelerate atherosclerosis. In addition, uncontrolled diabetics tend to be overweight and have high cholesterol, all of which further increase the risk for heart attack.
- High Blood Pressure: Poor control of blood pressure tends to increase the deposit of fat in blood vessels. Not only coronary blood vessels are affected but also there is increased incidence of damage to blood vessels of brain (leading to stroke) and kidney (leading to kidney failure). High blood pressure also leads to enlargement of heart.
- Overweight: Incidence of heart attack is high in individuals who are overweight. Excess of weight is usually due to too much of rich food (rich in fat and sugar) and too little of exercise. This leads to increased cholesterol in the blood and also increased incidence of atherosclerosis.
- Sedentary Habit: It is a well known fact that physically active people like athletes have less chance of developing a heart attack. Equally well known is that a sedentary person has a higher chance of getting heart attack. Sedentary habit leads to deconditioning (Heart is unable to cope up with stress) and obesity, and also less burning of fat leading to high blood cholesterol.
- Emotional stress and strain can also enhance atherosclerosis. Individuals who are always tense, aggressive and who would like to achieve things in a hurry are more prone for heart attacks. These individuals are known to have type of behavioural pattern. A person who is calm, philosophical and takes things in his stride is known to live longer.
- Women are normally protected against heart attacks, till they attain menopause. However this protection is lost if they use oral contraceptive pills for a long time and smoke tobacco.
- Hereditary factor: If anyone in a family had heart attack, especially at an young age, the chances of an individual in that family suffering a heart attack is high. Such individuals who are at high risk, should avoid such modifiable risk factors like smoking, sedentary habit and high fat intake. They should start their periodic checkups at much earlier age.
The process of hardening of the blood vessels can start as early as the second decade (15 to 20 years of age). Hence it is important to start the preventive measures at an early age.
Steps for prevention of heart attack
- Smoking cessation
- Blood pressure control
- Good Blood sugar control
- Weight management
- Achieve recommended lipid levels
- Regular Exercise / Diet / De-stress