Understanding the importance of a Healthy Heart and the Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Sponsored by Baptist Memorial Hospital North Mississippi
February is recognized by many people as the month of love because of Valentine’s Day. February is also known as American Heart Month by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The American Heart Month motivates Americans to make heart-healthy decisions to prevent heart disease.
Mississippi and surrounding southern states are one of the highest regions of heart disease and obesity in the country, due to the unhealthy habits in which many partake. These unhealthy habits, mixed in with other symptoms, lead to a higher rate of heart attacks and heart disease in the region.
How to Stay Heart Healthy
There are three ways people can stay heart-healthy, according to Dr. Kevin Hall, an Interventional Cardiologist with Baptist Memorial Hospital and the Stern Cardiovascular Foundation.
The first way is to eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fats and Trans-fats. These are the fats that stick to your arteries and can lead to a heart attack. The healthy fats are poly- and mono-unsaturated fats, and can be found in fruits, vegetables and nuts.
The second way is to limit your sugar or carb intake. As we know, excess sugar intake can lead to inflammation, which is a precursor to the development of heart blockages and many other illnesses, including diabetes. Diabetes dramatically increases your risk of the development of heart blockages and stroke, among other things.
The final way to stay heart healthy is to become more physically active by walking, running or biking. Join a gym. If you have bad joints, consider water aerobics or the elliptical machine. The key is, do activities that increase your heart rate.
“The toughest part of my job is trying to change lifestyles in the patients I see on a regular basis. We’re so used to eating and living a certain way,” Hall said. “Don’t get me wrong; even I love the occasional hamburger and sweets. I also understand, however, too much of that is bad for me in the long run. Everything in moderation.”
Heart Attack Symptoms
The most common symptoms a person will often feel when having a heart attack is an uncomfortable pressure and squeezing or tightness of the chest. Some individuals could experience nausea, a cold sweat, discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck and jaw or stomach, along with – or without – chest discomfort.
Many people do not know that the symptoms of a heart attack are different between men and women.
“Men will oftentimes have typical symptoms such as chest pressure, sweating and left shoulder and /or jaw pain,” Hall said. “Women, on the other hand, might present with shortness of breath, nausea, stomach pain and no chest pain. In fact, women are more likely to suffer a heart attack without chest pain up until the age of 65.”
What to do and what not to do when experiencing or seeing someone experiencing a heart attack
The first thing to do when you see someone or are experiencing a heart attack is for the individual to take an Aspirin.
“A full dose Aspirin (325mg) is essential if you suspect you’re having a heart attack,” Hall said. “Aspirin serves as a blood thinner that can prevent or slow down the cascade of events that ultimately leads to blockage formation in your heart arteries.”
The major action on the what not to do list is, when someone is experiencing a heart attack, DO NOT WAIT.
“If you think you’re having a heart attack. DON’T WAIT. Seek emergent medical attention. In this case, it’s truly better to be safe than sorry,” Hall said. “Once you arrive at the hospital, you will quickly be triaged to the front and receive an EKG (heart tracing) and are monitored with blood work to determine if your heart is this issue.”
Time = Heart
Time is precious when having a heart attack. The longer you wait, the more heart tissue that could die.
Hall has a formula that sums up why Time is important when having a heart attack. “The formula is simple. Time = Heart. The faster you make it to the hospital, the better your chances of surviving a heart attack,” Hall said.
Use your best judgment when determining the quickest way to get to the hospital, whether by calling 911 or by having someone drive you to the nearest hospital.
“When you call 911, an ambulance with trained medical personnel is sent to your location and can offer immediate assistance,” Hall said. “This might be the best option when you are alone, as you shouldn’t drive if you suspect you’re having a heart attack. However, if there is a loved one or family member present, it might be faster to have them drive you to the nearest hospital.”
Recovery and Prevention
How quickly you arrive at the hospital, and how severe the heart attack is, determines the recovery time.
“In patients that get to the hospital quickly and receive treatment, their chances of survival and recovery are great,” Hall said. “However, patients that delay going to the hospital might suffer from worsening heart attack and subsequent heart failure due to lack of blood supply to the heart. In those patients, recovery is difficult.”
Most doctors will put their patients on a daily aspirin regimen if they have had or are at risk of having a heart attack to prevent them, alongside a change in diet and exercise, as mentioned above.
“Daily aspirin therapy (81mg) may lower your risk of a heart attack. If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, your doctor will likely recommend you take a daily aspirin unless you have a serious allergy or history of bleeding,” Hall said. “If you have a high risk of having a first heart attack, your doctor will likely recommend aspirin after weighing the risks and benefits.”