You’ve been feeling some tightness and pain in your chest and you think it may be heartburn. Was it those spicy burritos you had for lunch or something far worse? Sometimes the signs of a heart attack are unassuming. You may think: “I’m too young to have a heart attack” but what if it is a heart attack? Who gets them and what are the signs?
According to the American Red Cross, an estimated 70 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease with about 1 million of those dying each year. About half of that 1 million have heart attacks. The good news is heart attack-related deaths have decreased by over 30% in the past 20 years. This dramatic drop is due, in part, to the constant awareness to make heart-healthy life changes such as eating better foods, exercising regularly and quitting smoking.
The heart is the organ that pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. So, when the heart is diseased and can’t function properly, it can beat irregularly or stop beating altogether. This causes oxygen depletion, which, to the outside observer, shows the victim breathing fast and turning bluish or pale. The stress put on the body from the malfunctioning heart can also cause the person to sweat and their pulse to race.
How do you know if you’re having a heart attack? The best indicator is if you’ve had constant chest pain (pain can range from discomfort to a crushing sensation). If the chest pain doesn’t lessen by changing positions and hasn’t gone away in 10 minutes; Indigestion will dissipate, a heart attack won’t
Believe it or not, most who die from a heart attack do so within 2 hours after the first signs appear. Getting help quickly is crucial! Those who hearts have stopped and been resuscitated have less of chance of survival than those who sought early treatment at the first warning signs. If you think you’re having a heart attack or know someone that is, call 911 quickly even if they deny they’re having one. Have them sit (it may be easier for them to breathe) and rest. Ask when the pain started, where it’s located, if they have a heart condition and if they’re on medication. Keep calm and talk in a reassuring voice-you want them to remain as calm as they can.
As stated before, getting help quickly is imperative. If the heart stops beating completely, causing cardiac arrest, you should be prepared to administer CPR to get some oxygen flowing to their brain. CPR is a short-term solution until professional medical treatment arrives.
Making healthy life choices to prevent the heart disease that can lead to heart ailments is the smartest gift we can give ourselves. As we all know, smoking restricts blood flow, as does cholesterol from “junk foods”. Regular exercise can combat the damage done by smoking and unhealthy foods. It helps increase blood circulation and can actually help the heart develop more channels for the blood to travel. Exercise also reduces body fat, which, if excessive, can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Keeping your blood pressure in check by exercising, eating right, and, if necessary, taking medication can greatly reduce your chances of having a heart attack. Make time for exercise; it can reduce stress, combat infections, allow you to sleep better, lose weight, and just generally make you feel better about yourself. If you have a heart condition, you should check with your doctor to see what exercise regiment is best for you.
Begin making heart-wise life changes today to have a happier, healthier tomorrow!