Heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is the leading cause of death in the United States. Recent studies have confirmed that sometimes people do unknowingly have a mild heart attack. These “silent heart attacks” can lead to serious heart muscle weakness. In fact, one-in-four heart attacks may not produce any of the normal symptoms someone would associate with heart problems. In most instances, the silent heart attack isn’t life-threatening but could still cause slight damage to the heart muscles or arteries leading to the heart.
Unhealthy activities such as smoking, drinking excessive alcohol, lack of exercise and drugs often lead to issues that can cause heart attacks. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and obesity are also contributors to an unhealthy heart and potentially lead to heart attack. If you live with any of the contributing factors for heart attack or heart disease, you should undergo screening for potential heart problems.
Heart Attack or Something Else?
Tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing accompanied by pain or numbness in the left arm could be symptoms of a very serious heart attack. They could also be symptoms of indigestion or acid reflux. Symptoms lasting more than five minutes could indicate a serious heart problem. No one can force you to call 9-1-1 if you suffer from any of these symptoms. However, it is highly recommended that if you feel you’ve had a heart attack, you should go to the doctor and have an EKG.
Heart Attack Prevention
Even if you’ve already experienced a heart attack, there are measures to help prevent future attacks. Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease and heart attack. Weight loss and exercise can dramatically decrease the risk of heart attack. Dieting, exercise and weight loss are not often easy life choices to make. Lifestyle changes are the most critical factors in surviving or preventing heart attacks. Some changes may include:
1. Blood thinning medications such as aspirin. Aspirin thins the blood and makes it less likely to clot. Blood clots cause heart attacks. Reducing the potential for clotting reduces the likelihood of heart attack. If you have already experienced heart attack, your physician may prescribe an anti-clotting drug that will help open narrowed arteries.
2. Beta blockers. By lowering heart rate and blood pressure, beta blockers reduce strain and demand on the heart itself. Many patients who have already suffered a heart attack must take beta blockers for the rest of their lives.
3. Diet and exercise. If you’ve never experienced a heart attack, diet and exercise could be the best prevention. Eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising about 30 minutes per day can strengthen the heart muscle and help maintain cleaner arteries. Obesity adds many contributing factors to heart problems. Weight loss brings with it reduced cholesterol and blood pressure, which also reduces the potential for heart attack.
4. Reduce stress. Stress is one of the leading causes of heart attack. Learn to manage your stress by reducing your workload and finding ways to minimize stress in your day-to-day activities will go a long way in preventing heart attack.