February is National Heart Awareness Month and a good thing too since about 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, that’s an average of 1 death every 38 seconds. Awareness is what we need. If those stats didn’t sink in, how about looking at it as 836,546 deaths in the US or 1 out of every 3 deaths in the US is due to a heart attack. Scary, so I’m going to help raise awareness in this article and explain what a heart attack is, signs/symptoms of a heart attack and ways to prevent a heart attack.
What is a Heart Attack?
According to WebMD, a heart attack is when there is permeant damage to the heart. So how does the heart get permanent damage? Let's take a look.
A heart needs oxygen to work properly. The oxygen is brought to your heart through blood flow. The blood flow comes from the coronary arteries and when the arteries become narrow from fat buildup, cholesterol or other substances, this is called plaque, the blood flow is cut off. This is what a heart attack is.
Once the heart attack is over, the heart begins to repair itself. It takes 8 weeks to repair the area where the heart was weakened, where the heart attack happened. The repair builds scar tissue but that scar tissue will never be able to contract again. The scar tissue lessens the ability to pump the heart.
Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Some heart attacks are sudden but most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. The most important step in recognizing a heart attack sign or symptom is knowing your body. If you experience any of these signs or symptoms call 911.
According to the American Heart Association, these are the most common signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.* most common heart attack symptom
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.*
Shortness of breath. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.*
Other signs. Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.*
According to Heart.org, Women are more likely to experience the other milder signs and symptoms of a heart attack, then men. Women are more likely to die of a heart attack because their signs and symptoms are often misdiagnosed. If you, as a woman, have any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.
Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Ways to Prevent a Heart Attack
To understand ways to prevent a heart attack you need to understand that there are 3 risk factor categories,
- Major Risk-risk of heart and cardiovascular disease. You cannot change this risk.
- Modifiable Risk-can be modified, treated or controlled with medications or lifestyle change or
- Contributing Risk-these could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease but their significance hasn’t yet been determined. According to the American Heart Association
Major risk factors
- Increasing Age- 65 or older have a greater risk
- Male gender
- Heredity (including race)
Modifiable risk factors
- Tobacco smoke
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Obesity and being overweight
Contributing risk factors
- Diet and nutrition
The early you understand your body and the risk factors that impact your body, the better your prevention of a heart attack will be. Talking to your doctor about your risk of heart disease is the first step. If you are looking for help with exercise and diet & nutrition, let me know, I would love to help you on your journey in finding the best version of you!!!