Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Heart diseases occur when the heart blood vessels (also called coronary arteries) becomes narrow due to fat deposits also called plaques. The plaques also attract blood components, which stick to the artery wall lining (called atherosclerosis). This process develops gradually, over many years. It often begins early in life, even in childhood.
The fatty buildup or plaque can break open and lead to the formation of a blood clot that seals the break. The clot reduces blood flow. When too little blood reaches the heart, the condition is called ischemia which is a reversible process. During ischemia, chest pain, or angina, may occur. The pain can vary in occurrence and be mild and intermittent, or more pronounced and steady. It can be severe enough to make normal everyday activities difficult. The same inadequate blood supply also may cause no symptoms, a condition called silent ischemia.
If a blood clot suddenly cuts off most or all blood supply to the heart, a heart attack results which if not treat immediately can lead of death of heart muscles that does not get the oxygen-carrying blood. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.
Each year, about 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack. About 460,000 of those heart attacks are fatal.
Fortunately, we can prevent many of these heart attack from occuring. But this requires some proactive approach to improve health and wellbeing. We first need to understand all those risk factors. Some of the risk factors for heart attack are beyond your control, but most can be modified to help you lower your risk of having a firstâ€“or repeatâ€“heart attack.
Factors you cannot control
- Pre-existing coronary heart diseases, including a previous heart attack, a prior angioplasty or bypass surgery, or angina
- Age-In men, the risk increases after age 45; in women, the risk increases after age 55.
- Family history of early heart disease-a father or brother diagnosed before age 55; or a mother or sister diagnosed before age 65.
Factors you can control
- High blood pressure.
- High blood cholesterol.
- Overweight and obesity.
- Physical inactivity.
What should I do to prevent the heart attack? (Checklist)
- Get your blood work done periodically because this is the only way to know if you have high cholesterol or high sugars.
- Get your blood pressure check periodically because people usually does not have have any pain when you have high blood pressure. If you don’t get it checked, you may never know that you have high blood pressure.
- If you don’t already know, then find out if you parents had any history of heart disease or heart attack at an young age.
- Stop smoking if you have not already done so. (Also see Short Guide to Quitting Smoking)
- Limit your intake of salt, fatty foods, concentrated sweets and sweetened beverages (Also see Weight Loss and Exercise can lower your blood pressure, )
- Eat breakfast daily which should consists of soluble fiber, bran, multi-grain and protein. Avoid energy-dense foods
- Be physically active for at least 45 minutes daily (Also see Tips on improving physical activity on daily basis)
- If you have diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol and you take any medications, please make sure to take them regularly. By controlling you sugars, cholesterol and blood pressure even with the medications can help you avoid you risk for heart attack
- Heart Risk Calculator
- The DASH Diet for Hypertension
- The New American Heart Association Cookbook, 7th Edition
- American Heart Association Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook, 4th edition: Delicious Recipes to Help Lower Your Cholesterol
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