Can you explain what happens to my heart during a heart attack?
Normally, your heart is fed oxygenated blood through blood vessels called coronary arteries. During a heart attack, a clot forms in the coronary artery, abruptly stopping blood flow. The heart muscle can become damaged from the loss of oxygen. However, if blood flow is restored quickly by a procedure called an angiogram, the heart muscle can be saved.
What can I do to reduce my risk of a heart attack?
In 2013, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology used existing data to develop 10 guidelines to reduce cardiovascular risk, some of which include: quitting smoking, 40 minutes of moderate exercise three to four times weekly, and eating a heart-healthy diet with very low amounts of fat and cholesterol. Although nutrition studies continuously modify which foods are healthier than others, a diet full of fruits and vegetables is the tried-and-true base of a healthy diet.
Does caffeine consumption have any direct effect on heart health?
Avoiding caffeine is only necessary in very rare circumstances. Caffeine in moderation, one to two cups per day, is generally safe.
Is there a difference in heart attack frequency between women and men?
There is some debate as to whether heart attacks are missed in women because they show milder symptoms. Women’s symptoms can include terrible heartburn, shortness of breath, neck pain, jaw pain, and new or unusual arm pain. These symptoms can also be present in men, but men more commonly experience extreme chest pressure, equated to an elephant sitting on their chest.
If I need to take a common over-the-counter medicine from the drugstore to treat a cold or lessen pain, which ones are safest for me if I have had a heart attack?
The safest medications are those that do not contain a decongestant. Decongestants work by narrowing the blood vessels in your nose. However, they can narrow the blood vessels throughout your body and cause worsening high blood pressure. Common decongestant ingredients include pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine.
Should I start taking aspirin to prevent a future heart attack?
Medical professionals take aspirin use very seriously; although it is available over the counter, aspirin is used as a very individualized medicine in cardiology. Patients who have previously suffered heart attacks are normally on a personalized prescription for aspirin. If you have never had a heart attack, you should consult your doctor to determine whether preventative use is necessary for your personal health.
At what age is it appropriate to consult a doctor, and how frequently should a person be checked?
Most people perceive cardiologists as doctors who primarily serve the elderly. In fact, cardiologists often see patients in their early 20s who want to minimize risk. Sometimes they have concerning symptoms but are generally seeking medical attention in light of a family history. Reviewing one’s personal and familial health history at a younger age can lower chances of future heart disease. •
For more information, contact Westchester Medical Center’s Heart and Vascular Department at www.westchestermedicalcenter.com/heart.