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Be Heart Healthy: How to Prevent a Heart Attack

Dr. Mudassar Khokhar

3 min read

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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. Therefore, heart attack prevention should be focused on especially by older people. 

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.

Heart attacks result in pain that last for fifteen or more minutes. Sometimes, there might be no symptoms. The signs can also show up days or weeks in advance. 

However, you still have to look out for symptoms. The common ones include pressure and/or pain on your chest; nausea; heavy sweating; difficulty breathing; dizziness; and pain that radiates from the chest to the neck, jaw, arms, shoulders. 

Follow the recommended lifestyle by cardiologists and optimization measures to significantly reduce your likelihood of having a heart attack.

What Can You Do If Someone’s Having A Heart Attack?

  • Call an ambulance immediately. If that is taking too long, drive the affected yourself. Do not delay medical care at all as that will only worsen the condition. 
  • Give the affected person a pain reliever like Aspirin. This should only be a secondary step after calling the ambulance.
  • If the person loses consciousness, start CPR at once. Only chest compressions will be fine in this case. 

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.

3- Sleep

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.

4- Exercise

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

Heart attack prevention requires letting go of bad habits. One of these is 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.

Heart attack prevention is crucial for older people. If you are 40 plus year old and 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.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Mudassar Khokhar - Author Dr. Mudassar H. Khokhar is a Cardiologist practicing in Lahore. He has MBBS, FCCP (UK), and Dip. in Cardiology alongside 35 years of experience in his domain. If you want to seek advice from him, oladoc is here to help you.
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