Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia, but it is largely preventable. Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of heart attacks.
A heart attack occurs when one or more of your coronary arteries become blocked due to the build-up of fat, cholesterol and other substances creating plaque in the arteries.
During a heart attack, this plaque can rupture and spill cholesterol into the bloodstream. Blood can stick to the ruptured area, causing a blood clot that either reduces or blocks blood flow to the heart resulting in a heart attack. At this point the heart muscle begins to die.
According to the experts at House Call Doctor, the heart is a muscle that needs a good supply of blood to remain healthy.
Heart attack symptoms include chest pain or discomfort particularly on the left side of the chest, pain or discomfort in the back, shoulders, neck, jaw or arms, and shortness of breath even while resting. Other possible symptoms can include cold sweats, feeling unusually tired, nausea and vomiting, light-headedness and sudden dizziness, or any sudden change in the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Some heart attacks can occur suddenly, but many people can experience symptoms for weeks in advance.
Risk factors for heart attacks include:
- Age – Men 45 years or older and women 45 years or older
- Smoking, including exposure to second-hand smoke
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Obesity – losing weight can lower your risk of a heart attack
- Diabetes – not producing enough insulin raises blood sugar leading to an increased risk of heart attack
- Metabolic syndromes
- Sedentary lifestyle – lack of physical activity
- Illegal drug use
- Family history of heart attacks
If you believe that you or a family member is experiencing a heart attack, call triple zero (000) immediately.
The easiest way for someone with heart problems to avoid a heart attack is for them to make changes to their lifestyle. This, of course, includes maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and managing stress.
However, if necessary, your doctor can prescribe medication to help reduce your risk of a heart attack and help your heart function better. It’s important to continue to consult with your doctor while on this medication and let them know of any side-effects you may be experiencing.
What to do if you see someone having a heart attack
If you’re witnessing someone having a heart attack, the first thing you should do is call emergency services immediately. Once you have done this, check if the person is breathing and if they have a pulse. If the person isn’t breathing and you can’t find a pulse, begin CPR (this will keep the blood flowing until a paramedic arrives).
If you aren’t trained in CPR, according to Mayo Clinic, you should only perform chest compressions, but if you are trained it’s fine to continue to open the airway andperform rescue breathing.