Monday, July 5, 2010

How To Prevent A Heart Attack

Over 1 million people in the U.S. have heart attacks each year, and almost 50% of them die, according to statistics from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Heart attack is the number 1 killer of men and women in the U.S., and about 50% of deaths occur within an hour of the first symptoms. Added to that is the forboding statistics that about 12 million Americans currently live with coronary heart disease.

Heart attach occurs when one of the coronary arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart is blocked. This effectively slows down or completely stops blood flow and oxygen to a part of the heart muscle. Without blood and oxygen, the heart cells die, and the heart stops functioning.

What causes the coronary arteries to become blocked is common knowledge. Over the first 30 to 40 years of our lives, the cholesterol from the food we eat builds up on the walls of the coronary arteries and slowly forms into plaque.

The plague, once formed, attaches to the walls of the arteries. In time, it develops cracks or tears and causes bleeding in the arteries. Blood platelets stick to these tears and form clot called thrombus. The blood clot, if large enough can block the coronary artery, and stop blood flow and oxygen to the heart and cause a heart attack.

Other causes of heart attack include a sudden overwhelming stress, increasing age, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, family history, chronic kidney disease; but most deaths from heart attack occur from a blockage of one of the coronary arteries caused by a high fat diet, high bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, and low good cholesterol (HDL) levels.

Chest pain is a major symptom of a heart attack. The pain may start in the chest, move to the arms, shoulder, neck, teeth, jaw, belly area, or the back. It may be severe or mild and feels like: a tight band around the chest, a bad indigestion, something heavy on the chest, or a squeezing or heavy pressure.

The chest pain may last for 20 minutes or more, and may not go away by resting or taking nitroglycerin. However, do not panic. Sometimes the sudden overwhelming stress and fear about having a heart attack can actually precipitate a heart attack.

Angina pectoris or chest pain are of two kinds. A stable angina is a chest pain that typically occurs with activity or stress. The pain begins slowly and gets worse before going away. The good news is that it goes away with rest and medication.

An unstable angina is the bad one. It's a condition where the heart doesn't get enough blood flow and oxygen, as a result of coronary artery blockage. The pain gets worse and it doesn't go away. It's a prelude to a heart attack.

Since it is difficult to know whether a chest pain is the result of a stable or an unstable angina, treat all mild to severe chest pain as an emergency, and seek immediate help. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Delay in seeking help immediately may result in a sudden cardiac death, which usually occurs in the first few hours of a heart attack.

As the major cause of heart attack is broadly known, so too is the solution, but it is such a common place solution it is often overlooked. The solution to coronary arteries blockage is to eat foods low in fat, avoid as much as possible saturated and trans fats, keep bad cholesterol levels down and good cholesterol levels up, eat foods high in fibers as part of a balanced diet, and do regular age-appropriate physical exercise.

A change in diet and lifestyle early in life, as well as starting right now, could well be our most effective weapon against heart attack, and the untold pain and suffering associated with the number 1 killer of men and women in the U.S.

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