With all of the stress in our busy lives and constant demands on our time, it’s no wonder that heart attacks cause about one in every five deaths in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Here are the symptoms of a heart attack as well as steps to take now to prevent a heart attack.
Not all heart attacks are the sudden, crisis moments where everyone knows exactly what is happening and can call 911 immediately. Most heart attacks start slowly with a bit of discomfort or chest pain, and neither the victim nor those around know what’s really happening. Cardio arrest needs to be treated as quickly as possible, so familiarize yourself with these symptoms and make sure you’re not in more trouble than you think you are.
The primary symptom of heart attack is chest pains, recurring over and over in a short period of time, or ongoing pain that feels like someone is squeezing the chest area, or like it’s too full and pushing at the seams.
Other areas of the upper body can be in pain during a heart attack as well, particularly an arm, the upper back, the neck, and the jaw line. Pain can extend to the abdominal area. This pain will be similar to that described above, a tightening or squeezing.
Breath becomes short during a heart attack, whether or not there is pain in the chest or upper body.
Other symptoms that may accompany the pain of heart attack include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or dizziness. Women are most likely to have sweating and nausea accompanying their shortness of breath and chest pain, while men most often don’t have symptoms other than pain and breathing problems.
The main thing to remember is that even if you’re not sure you’re having a heart attack, call 911 because emergency responders can get to you faster than you can be driven to the emergency room.
Cease smoking or using tobacco products
This is one of the highest risk factors for developing a heart condition. There is no amount of smoking that is deemed safe or that will not affect the respiratory system. Limiting smoking to social situations or using low-nicotine cigarettes does not alleviate any of the risk. The nicotine in cigarettes makes the heart pump harder because it promotes narrowing of the blood vessels. This increases blood pressure and heart rate, increasing the risk for cardiac disease. Carbon monoxide in the smoke replaces some of the oxygen in the blood, requiring the heart to work harder to supply oxygen for the rest of the body.
You may think that you’ve smoked for so long that it doesn’t make a difference anymore, but this is not true. The Mayo Clinic clarifies that when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops dramatically within just one year.
Just like any other muscle, the heart muscle requires exercise to stay fit. The Mayo Clinic recommends at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physicial activity most days of the week. It is important to remember that short bursts of activity help to work your heart, even if they are only 5 or 10 minutes long.
Keep in mind that everyday activities requiring movement and strength, such as gardening, mowing the lawn, scrubbing the tub, and carrying laundry up and down the stairs, are all a part of working your heart, and count towards your daily activity.
Eating for your heart
There is a recommended diet called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension http://dashdiet.org/ designed specifically for those fighting high blood pressure and other heart ailments. The plan includes large amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. It recommends staying away from red meats, and suggests instead that you aim for small helpings of chicken, seafood and dairy paired at every meal with at least two vegetables and fruit.
Sources: The American Heart Association, The Mayo Clinic