Cholesterol is a wax-like substance present in the cell membranes of body tissues and is carried in the blood plasma. It is a sterol (alcohol and steroid combination), also called atherosclerotic plaque. The body requires cholesterol to form and sustain the...
Heart Attack and HOW to prevent it.
March 25, 2022 Glynis Kennedy
A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. The blockage is most often a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances, which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart (coronary arteries).
Sometimes plaque can rupture and form a clot that blocks blood flow. The interrupted blood flow can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle.
A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, can be fatal, but treatment has improved dramatically over the years. It’s crucial to call 911 or emergency medical help if you think you might be having a heart attack.
What are the symptoms of a 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.
There are a few cardiac conditions that can cause heart attacks. One of the most common causes is plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis) that prevents blood from getting to the heart muscle.
Heart attacks can also be caused by blood clots or torn blood vessels. Less commonly, a heart attack is caused by a blood vessel spasm.
Several factors can put you at risk for a heart attack. Some factors you can’t change, such as age and family history. Other factors, called modifiable risk factors, are ones you can change.
Risk factors that you can’t change include:
- Age – If you’re over age 65, your risk for having a heart attack is greater.
- Sex – Men are more at risk than women.
- Family history – If you have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes, you’re more at risk.
- Race – People of African descent have a higher risk.
Modifiable risk factors which you can change include:
When to see a Doctor
Act immediately. Some people wait too long because they don’t recognize the important signs and symptoms. Take these steps:
- Call for emergency medical help. If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, don’t hesitate. Immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital.
Drive yourself only if there are no other options. Because your condition can worsen, driving yourself puts you and others at risk.
- Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed to you by a doctor. Take it as instructed while awaiting emergency help.
- Take aspirin, if recommended. Taking aspirin during a heart attack could reduce heart damage by helping to keep your blood from clotting.
Aspirin can interact with other medications, however, so don’t take an aspirin unless your doctor or emergency medical personnel recommend it. Don’t delay calling 911 to take an aspirin. Call for emergency help first.
What to do someone else might be having a heart attack
If you see someone who’s unconscious and you believe is having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help. Then check if the person is breathing and has a pulse. If the person isn’t breathing or you don’t find a pulse, only then should you begin CPR.
Push hard and fast on the person’s chest in a fairly rapid rhythm — about 100 to 120 compressions a minute.
If you haven’t been trained in CPR, doctors recommend performing only chest compressions. If you have been trained in CPR, you can go on to opening the airway and rescue breathing.
A diagnosis of a heart attack is made by a doctor after they perform a physical exam and review your medical history. Your doctor will likely conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG) to monitor your heart’s electrical activity.
They should also take a sample of your blood or perform other tests to see if there’s evidence of heart muscle damage.
Tests and treatments
If your doctor diagnoses a heart attack, they’ll use a variety of tests and treatments, depending on the cause.
Your doctor may order a cardiac catheterization. This is a probe that’s inserted into your blood vessels through a soft flexible tube called a catheter. It allows your doctor to view areas where plaque may have built up. Your doctor can also inject dye into your arteries through the catheter and take an X-ray to see how the blood flows, as well as view any blockages.
If you’ve had a heart attack, your doctor may recommend a procedure (surgery or nonsurgical). Procedures can relieve pain and help prevent another heart attack from occurring.
Common procedures include:
- Angioplasty. An angioplasty opens the blocked artery by using a balloon or by removing the plaque buildup.
- Stent. A stent is a wire mesh tube that’s inserted into the artery to keep it open after angioplasty.
- Heart bypass surgery. In bypass surgery, your doctor reroutes the blood around the blockage.
- Heart valve surgery. In valve replacement surgery, your leaky valves are replaced to help the heart pump.
- Pacemaker. A pacemaker is a device implanted beneath the skin. It’s designed to help your heart maintain a normal rhythm.
- Heart transplant. A transplant is performed in severe cases where the heart attack has caused permanent tissue death to most of the heart.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications to treat your heart attack, including:
- drugs to break up clots
- antiplatelet and anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners
- blood pressure medication
Complications are often related to the damage done to your heart during a heart attack, which can lead to:
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). Electrical “short circuits” can develop, resulting in abnormal heart rhythms, some of which can be serious, and may lead to death.
- Heart failure. A heart attack might damage so much heart tissue that the remaining heart muscle can’t pump enough blood out of your heart. Heart failure can be temporary, or it can be a chronic condition resulting from extensive and permanent damage to your heart.
- Sudden cardiac arrest. Without warning, your heart stops due to an electrical disturbance that causes an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Heart attacks increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest, which can cause death without immediate treatment.
It’s never too late to take steps to prevent a heart attack — even if you’ve already had one. Here are ways to prevent a heart attack.
- Taking medications can reduce your risk of a subsequent heart attack and help your damaged heart function better. Continue to take what your doctor prescribes, and ask your doctor how often you need to be monitored.
- Lifestyle factors. You know the drill, maintain a healthy weight with a heart-healthy diet, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, manage stress, and control conditions that can lead to a heart attack. This includes conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
What can I do to recover after a heart attack?
If you’ve had a heart attack, your heart may be damaged. This could affect your heart’s rhythm and its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. You may also be at risk for another heart attack or conditions such as stroke, kidney disorders, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
You can lower your chances of having future health problems following a heart attack with these steps:
- Physical activity—Talk with your health care team about the things you do each day in your life and work. Your doctor may want you to limit work, travel, or sexual activity for some time after a heart attack.
- Lifestyle changes—Eating a healthier diet, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, and managing stress—in addition to taking prescribed medicines—can help improve your heart health and quality of life. Ask your health care team about attending a program called cardiac rehabilitation to help you make these lifestyle changes.
- Cardiac Rehabilitation—Cardiac rehabilitation is an important program for anyone recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart problem that requires surgery or medical care. Cardiac rehab is a supervised program that includes.
- Physical activity
- Education about healthy living, including healthy eating, taking medications as prescribed, and ways to help you quit smoking
- Counseling to find ways to relieve stress and improve mental health
A team of people may help you through cardiac rehab, including your health care team, exercise, and nutrition specialists, physical therapists, and counselors or mental health professionals.
What lifestyle changes are needed after or before a heart attack?
To keep heart disease from getting worse and to head off another heart attack, follow your doctor’s advice. You might need to change your lifestyle. Here are some changes you can make that can cut your risk and put you on the path to a healthier life:
Stop smoking: Smoking dramatically raises your risk of both heart attacks and strokes. Talk to your doctor about how to quit. You’ll also be doing your friends and family a favor, since secondhand smoke can also lead to heart disease.
Keep a healthy body weight: If you’re overweight or obese, you don’t have to get thin to reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke. If you lose 5% to 10% of your weight, you’ll improve your cholesterol numbers and lower your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Follow an exercise plan: Moderate physical activity lowers your chances of a heart attack. It also can reduce your blood pressure and LDL or “bad” cholesterol, raise your HDL or “good” cholesterol, and help you stay at a healthy weight.
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise that gets your heart pumping at least 5 days a week. Brisk walking or swimming are some good choices. On the other 2 days, do strength training, like lifting weights. If you’ve got a tight schedule, break your exercise routine into small chunks.
Eat a heart-healthy diet: Fill your plate with different kinds of fruits, veggies, beans, and lean meats, such as poultry without the skin. Also up your intake of whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and fish, (especially those with omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, and herring).
Avocados, olive oil, and flaxseeds also have omega-3s, as do some nuts and seeds. Fat-free or low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese also are better choices for your heart health than higher-fat versions.
Cut back on unhealthy foods: Stay away from processed or prepared foods that often are high in salt and added sugar. They’re also filled with preservatives. Avoid fatty beef, butter, fried foods, and palm oil. All are high in saturated fats.
Skip sugary drinks like sodas and fruit punch, which can lead to weight gain. So can packaged baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and pies. They are high in trans fats and can raise your cholesterol levels.
Limit alcohol: If you don’t drink already, don’t start. If you do drink, limit how much you drink. The recommendation is no more than one drink a day if you are a woman and no more than two a day if you are a man. Drinking raises your heart rate and blood pressure. It also increases the level of fat in your blood and can cause weight gain.
Get regular checks of your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar (glucose) levels. If you have diabetes, make sure it’s controlled. Keeping a check on these numbers can help you be more aware of the changes you need to make to keep these levels within normal limits.
Control stress: You may feel anxious or frustrated at times. Make sure you open up to your family and friends about what’s going on. Support groups can help you learn how others adjusted to life after a heart attack or stroke.
You may want to talk to a mental health professional or ask your doctor about a stress management program. You can also reduce stress with plenty of physical activity and mind-body practices like meditation.
Pay attention to your symptoms: Don’t just hope they’ll go away. See your doctor if you feel anything unusual, like shortness of breath, changes in your heart rhythm, or extreme tiredness. Also, watch for pain in your jaw or back, nausea or vomiting, sweating, or flu-like symptoms.
Improving your heart health after a heart attack depends on how well you stick to your doctor’s treatment plan. It also depends on your ability to identify potential problems.
Knowing your risk factors and making lifestyle changes can help you become a survivor and enjoy your life.
VITAMINS FOR CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE
Did you know that the leading cause of death globally is cardiovascular disease? And that these diseases are responsible for 17.9 million deaths each year?
Shocking, right? Well, not really.
You will soon find out why.
Cardiovascular diseases or CVDs concern disorders of the heart and blood vessels which can manifest in the form of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease, and other conditions.
Heart attacks and strokes are the most common deaths and, what may come as surprising to you, most of them occur in people under 70 years of age.
If you suffer from high blood pressure, raised blood glucose, raised blood lipids, and obesity, you should know that some of these health concerns are behavioral risk factors of heart disease and stroke.
So, what are these factors? The most common and obvious ones are physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol. All of these increase the risk of complications, such as heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.
Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Some of them are:
- Blood vessel disease, such as coronary artery disease
- Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
- A disease of the heart muscle
- Heart defects you’re born with (congenital heart defects)
- Heart infection
- Heart valve disease
The good news is that you can prevent many of these forms of heart disease or even treat them with a healthier lifestyle. Changing your lifestyle choices and some habits might not seem that easy. However, it is an easy way to prevent yourself from CVDs. And what better motivation is there than living a long and healthier life? You can start by quitting tobacco use, reducing the amount of salt in your diet, adding some more fruit and vegetables to your diet, practicing physical activity regularly, and avoiding alcohol. Any of these lifestyle choices will reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
To facilitate things, there are healthy practices that people can follow to maintain good health. Let’s look at some affordable heart healthy choices.
Can Vitamins Help with Heart Disease?
Vitamins are essential to normal life and the normal functions of the body. Plus, there are some that may even help prevent and treat CVDs. This group includes antioxidant vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids), folic acid (FA), vitamins B6 and B12 from the vitamin B group, vitamin D, and coenzyme Q10.
The question you might want to ask is whether ingesting a number of vitamins i.e., vitamin substitution therapy, is effective in preventing and/or treating CVDs.
Despite the long investigation on the benefits of vitamins in CVDs, which is supported by observational studies and randomized controlled trials, the data remains inconsistent. The role of vitamins in primary or secondary prevention of CVD hasn’t been defined and some cases indicated increased mortality in those with pre-existing late-stage atherosclerosis.
Although not confirmed in trials, it has been suggested to prioritize combination therapy over single supplementation. Studies have indicated that β-carotene mediates pro-oxidant effects and that its negative effects may diminish the beneficial ones that come from the other vitamins in the supplementation cocktail. The trials on a combination of vitamins that include β-carotene have proven to be disappointing.
Meanwhile, vitamin E and vitamin C combined have shown long-term anti-atherogenic effects even if their combined effect on clinical endpoints has been inconsistent. We can also see in some studies that vitamins would be beneficial to individuals who are antioxidant-deficient or exposed to increased levels of oxidative stress. These include smokers, diabetics, and elderly patients. Because of this information, we can see the importance of subgroup targeting. If we manage to define the right population group and the best vitamin combination, there is a good chance of finding a positive future role for vitamins in the treatment of CVDs. How great does that sound?
What can lower my risk of heart disease?
As was previously mentioned, there are several things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease, including:
- Regular physical activity.
- Cessation of tobacco use.
- Reducing fats and salt in your diet.
- Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Another way is through certain vitamins called antioxidants.
What are antioxidants, and what do they do?
Antioxidants are the vitamins responsible for keeping cholesterol from going through “oxidation.” This process consists of the reaction of oxygen with cholesterol in your blood and causes the “bad” cholesterol (called “LDL” cholesterol) to stick to the lining of your arteries and even block them, not letting the blood get through. There are foods, especially fruits and vegetables, that effectively prevent this process from happening. Vitamin E and vitamin C are probably the best vitamin antioxidants. Vitamin E might reduce your risk of a heart attack if you already live with heart disease; Vitamin C complements vitamin E while improving the function of your arteries.
Foods that contain antioxidants
Some foods that contain antioxidants are:
– Vitamin E: green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, papaya, seeds, whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, soybeans, sweet potatoes, watercress, wheat, and wheat germ.
– Beta carotene: dark orange, red and dark green vegetables and fruits.
To ensure adequate intake of disease-fighting antioxidant nutrients, eating between five and 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily is recommended.
Why should you take extra vitamin E and vitamin C?
Vitamin E and vitamin C play a crucial role in lowering the risk of heart disease, and foods containing these vitamins are a good way to achieve a positive health outcome. You may have already heard from your doctor to take extra of these vitamins if you have had any of the following problems:
- A heart attack
- Angioplasty (balloon surgery)
- Bypass surgery (repair of blocked arteries around the heart)
- A stroke caused by a blood clot, carotid artery disease, or surgery
- Blocked arteries in your legs
- High levels of LDL cholesterol or triglycerides (another kind of cholesterol)
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use
How much should I take? Are there side effects?
Doctors and investigators haven’t defined a precise ideal dose. However, the following amounts of vitamin C and vitamin E areconsidered reasonable:
- Vitamin E: 400 IU a day
- Vitamin C: 500 mg twice a day
Most people don’t have side effects from many of these vitamins, but those who do may notice nausea, bloating, an upset stomach, or loose stools at first. So, be aware.
Also, you should not take vitamin C for three days before you have your blood tested.
If you’re already taking a blood-thinning drug like warfarin (brand name: Coumadin), and want to take vitamin E, you should take a dose lower than 800 IU per day. This is because of the fact that this vitamin acts like a blood thinner when you take more than the dose suggested above. Check with your doctor.
Good food sources of vitamin E:
- Wheat germ
- Brown rice
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
Good food sources of vitamin C:
- Sweet red peppers
Do other things in food help too?
“Phytochemicals”, which are only in foods that come from plants, may also protect you from heart disease and cancer. Some examples are:
● Genistein (in soybeans)
● Lycopene (in tomatoes and grapefruit)
● Indoles (in cabbage and Brussel sprouts)
● Allylic sulfides (in garlic and onion)
● Tannins (in green tea)
● Flavonoids (in most fruits and vegetables)
If you make sure to eat lots of foods containing antioxidants and phytochemicals, you will be doing more to improve your overall health.
Does it help to take a multivitamin every day?
You can surely find a good balance in some multivitamins, but they rarely have the amount of vitamin E and vitamin C that you may need for a healthy heart. Taking daily multivitamins along with extra vitamin C and vitamin E could be a reasonable solution. Be sure to ask your doctor about this before you take any multivitamin or combination of vitamins.
Women still menstruating should probably take a multivitamin containing extra iron. For those who are past menopause, this isn’t necessary, and multivitamins with 4 mg or less should be enough. Extra iron in your body can cause oxidation, so be sure to check with your doctor about the kind of multivitamin that is best for you.
Other Supplements That May Offer Benefits
Coenzyme Q10 ( CoQ10) is an enzyme that your body naturally makes in small amounts. If you take it as a supplement, it may help lower blood pressure.
Pills that contain CoQ10 are popular as a treatment for the side effects of statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs). Statins are drugs that usually have side effects, precisely lowering the amount of CoQ10 that the body makes naturally. Although not supported by overall scientific evidence, some doctors suggest that taking a CoQ10 supplement can make up for the loss, and perhaps relieve problems such as muscle pain and weakness.
Fiber and Sterols for Your Heart
Fiber, which can be found in fruits, grains, vegetables, and legumes, lowers your cholesterol. The ideal dosage is at least 25 to 30 grams of it daily. For men less than 51 years of age the goal should be 38 grams a day. Getting your daily dose from your diet is recommended, but supplements are also an option. When you start taking a fiber supplement, be aware to increase the amount slowly and drink enough liquids. This can help prevent gas and cramping. Nuts and grains contain sterols and stanols which are also useful to reduce the amount of cholesterol that your body absorbs from food. You can buy them as supplements or even find them added to other foods, such as some kinds of margarine, orange juice, and yogurts. For people who have high cholesterol, 2 grams a day are recommended to help lower LDL cholesterol.
Other beneficial foods and liquids
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults eat at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish a week, as you can find benefits, like improvement of blood pressure, from having fish oil in your diet.
Research has shown that garlic could also slightly lower blood pressure and lower the risk of blood clots.
Some research concerning green tea showed signs of it lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raising HDL levels.
Safe Supplement Use
After taking all of these facts into consideration, you should always be cautious when you take supplements. Not all of them will be helpful to you. So, be sure to pay attention to what it does and if it will be beneficial for you. If you are interested, you should ask your doctor first, especially if you have a heart condition or a high risk of a heart attack.
Vitamins are not yet proven to be helpful for curing CDV diseases. Nevertheless, there are still many things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease. It is important to decrease your risk factors and adjusting your lifestyle remains an effective choice, you can add vitamins or supplements to your healthy lifestyle choices.
Seven Simple methods to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease:
- Quit smoking and using tobacco products
- Have your doctor check your lipid profile
- Eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and rich in fiber and nutrients (including antioxidants)
- Be active and exercise regularly
- Control high blood pressure and diabetes
- Achieve and maintain an appropriate weight
- Have regular check-ups with your doctor
It remains important to stress the necessity of preventing heart diseases. In today’s society, people usually start worrying about their health when they already have a problem. Yet, if you start gradually making changes to your lifestyle you will experience great health benefits which you will surely be thankful for in the future. If you already suffer from a heart condition, making healthier choices will also be of great importance to you.