According to a 2017 WHO report, 1/4th of the local population over 40 suffers from cardiovascular diseases (CVD), making heart attacks and strokes one of the greatest causes of death in Pakistan.
How Does A Heart Attack Happen?
Heart attacks commonly occur as a result of plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) and consequential narrowing of the arteries over time, eventually damaging and killing heart muscles by cutting of blood, oxygen, and nutrient supply. Clots may also form around broken pieces of plaque resulting in blood flow obstruction and, a heart attack. Follow the recommended lifestyle by doctors to optimization measures to significantly reduce your likelihood of having a heart attack.
1- Know Your Inheritance:
The first step towards avoiding cardiovascular disease and heart attacks is knowing your risk factors. While Myocardial Infarction (MI) risk increases with age, a strong family history of CVD, stroke, or diabetes greatly magnifies the risk of a heart attack, making preventative measures all the more necessary.
2- Avoid Hypertension:
A blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or higher poses an increased risk of a heart attack. Termed as the ‘silent killer’, chronic hypertension slowly wears away the blood vessels’ inner lining over time without any definitive symptoms; making regular blood pressure measurement necessary for all adults 18 and over to ensure it stays within the normal range i.e. 130/80 mmHg.
Establish a regular sleep schedule and seek medical treatment in case of obstructive sleep apnea, which can be identified by chronic daytime lethargy despite adequate sleep, as irregular sleep patterns and low-quality sleep negatively affect blood circulation, hence increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Performing a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous, or moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, or swimming, per week, along with strength training exercises twice a week not only aids in weight and cholesterol reduction and management, but also improves blood circulation, which tends to reduce with age.
5- Weight Matters:
Since excess belly fat has been strongly linked with diabetes, a prime CVD and heart attack risk factor, reduce and maintain a healthy weight and BMI by eating a heart-healthy diet comprising all food groups in small portions spread throughout the day, avoiding trans-fats and excess sugary foods, drinking water and tea instead of sodas or caffeinated drinks, and leaving a little ‘room’ in your stomach at every meal.
6- Cholesterol Balance:
Since high cholesterol levels are a major atherosclerosis contributor, cholesterol control within an optimum range of 100 mg/dL for LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) and 3.0 for a total cholesterol reading, even for those at an optimum weight and BMI, via an appropriate diet, exercise and cholesterol-reducing medications, in some cases, and regular cholesterol screenings, is necessary.
7- Quit Smoking:
Avoid nicotine products, including smokeless tobacco, low-tar, and low-nicotine cigarettes, and secondhand smoke, as the continued replacement of blood oxygen with carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke not only constricts the blood vessels, but also increases the risk of an MI by forcing the heart to pump harder in order to overcome the oxygen deficiency, which elevates blood pressure and heart rate.
8- Consider Aspirin Therapy:
People with a CVD, or those who have previously had a heart attack or undergone a heart surgery may benefit from the daily consumption of low-dose aspirin as it prevents blood clot formation, plaque buildup, and inflammation in the blood vessels.
9- Reduce Stress:
De-stress your life by laughing, socializing, doing enjoyable, constructive activities, and bypassing negative situations and people to avoid chronic elevation of cortisol and adrenaline hormone levels, which can cause a sudden MI or stroke by elevating blood sugar and hardening the blood vessels.
If you regularly experience shortness of breath, leg swelling, chest pain or discomfort, unexplained fatigue, or confusion, or experience sudden changes in exercise tolerance, heart palpitations, or dizziness, consult with your doctor immediately as they could be the early signs of a heart attack. You can also book an appointment with a top Cardiologist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your heart health concerns.
About the Writer:
Yashfa Marrium is a freelance writer and health enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected]