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Health and Wellness

Heart Health
Heart Health
Health Education Department,
Multicare Associates of the Twin Cities

Can you recognize the early warning signals of a heart attack? If you cannot, now is the time to learn. Your life may depend on it.

A heart attack can strike anyone. When it occurs, there is no time for delay. Most heart attack victims survive, if they get medical care immediately. Sometimes the symptoms may be misinterpreted as "indigestion." Often the victim of a heart attack does not want to admit that he is ill, and prefers to ignore the signals of the heart attack. They wait, hoping that the symptoms will disappear. However, ignoring the symptoms of a heart attack can be fatal.

A heart attack occurs when one or more of the tiny blood vessels that carries blood to the heart becomes blocked. It may be blocked with deposits of cholesterol or with a tiny blood clot. When this happens, the heart muscle, which is nourished by the narrowed artery, suddenly begins to die. Doctors call this a myocardial infarction, or a heart attack.

When one of the important coronary arteries becomes blocked, there are usually symptoms that occur right away. The most common symptoms are:
  • Pressure, fullness, or squeezing pain in the center of the chest, lasting more than two minutes.
  • The pain may move or radiate to the neck, jaw, shoulders or arms.
  • Nausea, severe sweating, or shortness of breath may also occur.
These symptoms are a warning system that you should not ignore. Get to the hospital as quickly as you can. Waiting can be fatal. Call 911. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital or doctor's office if you think you are having a heart attack.

Preventing heart attack from ever occurring is the most important thing you can do. It is never too late to change habits that will help to reduce your risk of having a heart attack. There are some risk factors that none of us can change, such as our sex, heredity, race and our age. Men have more heart attacks than women. Blacks have a higher incidence of heart attacks than whites. Everyone's risk increases as they grow older. If your parents had a heart attack before the age of 55, you are at a greater risk of having a heart attack too.

However, there are some risk factors that can be controlled. These are the things each of us needs to consider in an effort to prevent a heart attack.
  • If your blood pressure is elevated, work with your doctor to get it under control.
  • Do not smoke! If you smoke, quit. If you do not smoke, do not start. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk for a heart attack.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If necessary, lose those extra pounds.
  • Exercise by walking or doing some form of aerobic activity for 30-45 minutes at least 4 times each week.
  • Have your cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked. If it is high, work with your doctor to reduce it to a more normal level. Limit the fats and sugars in your diet, as this will help improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your body.
It is never too late to change habits that could harm your heart. This means having a regular medical checkup and following your doctor's advice about reducing coronary risk factors.

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