Modern diets, rich in salt, unhealthy saturated fats and pumped with calories have undesirable side effects on our health. Add smoking, alcohol consumption and chronic stress and you have the perfect recipe for disaster. Our heart and vascular system are the first to show signs of wear, but they often go unnoticed up until a form of cardiovascular disease installs and progresses towards a more or less advanced stage.
Heart attacks, one of the end results of cardiovascular disease, are surprisingly common and often indicate a point of no return for many sufferers as they leave a deep mark on people’s health. At one point it was estimated that 8 out of 10 heart disease sufferers 65 or older were at risk of dying of a heart attack, a truly gruesome statistics. Because prevention is better than cure, preventing heart disease is more desirable than having to deal with the aftermath of a heart attack.
What are the symptoms of a heart attack? Because many people may experience a heart attack without even knowing, it is important to know what signs and symptoms to pay attention to. While chest and upper body pain or discomfort, shortness or breath and other breathing difficulties are common symptoms, women especially often experience less common symptoms such as digestive upsets, fatigue and others.
1) Chest pain (angina).
2) Pain radiating down left arm.
3) Upper back, jaw and neck pain.
4) Pain in between shoulders.
5) Chest pressure or fullness sensation.
An important sign to look for is the pain that does not go away when you change position.
6) Shortness of breath and overall breathing difficulty.
7) Irregular or rapid heartbeat, palpitations, heart flutters.
8) Cold sweats.
9) Strong nausea sensation.
10) Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting sensation.
11) Fatigue and malaise that may persist for days.
Many women report having experienced extreme fatigue for weeks prior to a heart attack.
12) Leg swelling.
13) Cyanosis or blue or purple skin color.
14) Upset stomach, appetite loss, cough or even inexplicable flu-like symptoms.
What you can do
How to prevent a heart attack? Good lifestyle and dietary choices are pivotal for preventing heart disease and, consequently, heart attacks. Here are 10 aspects to consider in this respect:
1) Know the signs of a heart attack. Although they cannot be predicted, heart attacks can be recognized when they are happening. Pay attention to symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, pain radiating down the left arm, lightheadedness, fainting sensation, palpitations or a combination of any of the above mentioned symptoms and seek medical assistance at once. It might not be a heart attack, but if it is, every minute counts.
2) Pay attention to medicines. Certain medication can increase the risk of heart attack. Hormone replacement therapy, diclofenac (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory used for pain management), voltaren, ibuprofen as well as several other commonly used medicines have been shown to significantly increase heart disease and stroke risks when used for prolonged periods of time. Talk to your doctor about the side effects of any medication you are under and work out less risky alternatives.
3) Check your blood pressure. High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Having it checked at the doctor’s once a year or occasionally might not be enough, so you might want to consider investing in a quality wrist blood pressure monitor. Measure your blood pressure regularly and, if you feel something is not right, see your doctor.
4) Keep your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels low. High blood lipid levels, particularly high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Safe limits are:
Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter)
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol: no less than 40 mg/dL or a little over 60 mg/dL
LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol: less than 100 mg/dL
Eating right can prevent and reverse high cholesterol levels in the blood. This means you have to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, give up on processed foods, reduce your intake of animal fat and substitute unhealthy fats in your diet with fish and fish oil (cod liver oil, for example), olive oil, small amounts of nuts or seeds and other similarly healthier options.
5) Manage diabetes. One of the inevitable side effects of diabetes is high blood pressure. If left untreated, complications such as cardiovascular disease will entail. Learning to manage the condition is thus pivotal for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. This is done by keeping blood sugar levels under control and taking the medication prescribed by your doctor following a minute medical assessment. Eating right and exercising regularly can help prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
6) Eat right. While there are so many tempting foods out there, it is important to enjoy a balanced, varied, natural diet in order to have a healthy heart. This means eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals (brown rice, wheat or amaranth, quinoa) and moderate amounts of fish, poultry and low-fat or fat-free animal products such as low-fat yogurt. Heavier meats such as beef or pork, whole milk and dairy products should be consumed in moderate to small amounts.
7) Exercise. You don’t have to work your heart out at the gym to be fit and healthy. Any kind of movement is good movement as long as you get at least 30-50 minutes of it every day. You can go for a long walk in the park with your dog or play with your children in the yard. You can practice a sport you enjoy 2-3 times a week. Swimming, dancing, playing football or soccer with your friends every weekend is a great option as well. Even gardening or doing housework can keep you moving enough to keep healthy.
8) Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases cardiovascular disease and heart attack risk immensely. So strive to eat right and keep active so you can prevent chronic diseases associated with obesity.
9) Avoid smoking. As popular as it may be, smoking is a bad idea as it ruins our health beyond repair. The vast majority of scientific studies link smoking to high cardiovascular disease risks. Smokers almost always develop some form of heart disease, that is if they do not develop another form of chornic disease first. If you have taken up smoking, do your best to quit. If you haven’t already, keep up the good work. If you are not convinced about how bad it really is, then read about the horrible consequences it can have on your health.
10) Learn to manage stress. Chronic stress can have devastating effects on our health. Stress is indirectly responsible for a wide variety of health problems ranging from irritability, anxiety, depression and fatigue to rashes, autoimmune problems to conditions such as hypertension, heart attack or stroke. Make time for yourself, learn to relax, get enough sleep and reduce your intake of stimulant foods and beverages (coffee, green tea, dark chocolate) that may encourage hypertension, palpitations and other symptoms of cardiovascular disease.
Also, despite the fact that not everyone shares the belief that vitamin and mineral dietary supplements are good for us, I would like to stress the importance of both potassium and magnesium for cardiovascular health. Potassium regulates fluid levels in the body, a mechanism which contributes to regulating blood pressure. Moreover, it reduces the effects of sodium and prevents water retention, contributing to lowering high blood pressure. Magnesium is just as important as it promotes the health of the heart muscles. Find out what are the best magnesium forms and which to choose.
Whether you choose to take dietary supplements or reassess your diet in order to make sure you get enough of the two minerals, know that both potassium and magnesium are of great importance for cardiovascular health. Aside from this, keep to healthy dietary choices and be active and you should not have to deal with cardiovascular problems or worry about preventing heart attacks.