Heart Attacks - Are They Preventable?

Graham Hobbs
 


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We know that heart attacks are common (understatement of the day), but did you know that heart attacks are actually preventable. It seems hard to imagine that if such a rampant killer as a heart attack were truely preventable that more people wouldn't take the measures necessary to prevent becoming the victims of them.

What causes a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs primarily because of a blockage in one or more of the main arteries that deliver blood to the heart. A build-up of fatty deposits on the arterial walls gradually narrows the vessel, allowing less blood through to the heart. Add to this a surface buildup of plaque and over time the regular flow of blood can be slowed considerably.

Often in this situation the outer plaque will rupture, causing a blood clot to form inside the artery. Here you have the makings of an immediate and quite major heart attack. But whether it is a blood clot or simply gradual narrowing of the arteries, the area of heart muscle directly ahead of the blockage will begin to die due to lack of oxygen (oxygen usually carried in the blood). It is the extent or size of this dying tissue that will determine the severity of the resultant heart attack.

Even if you are not at risk now, it is worth educating yourself on heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, sudden cardiac arrest, etc. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", is certainly true of heart attacks.

The statistics

The statistics regarding heart attacks and heart disease in general speak for themselves:

  • One heart attack occurs approx. every 20 seconds in the US, with one heart attack death about every minute.
  • 1.5 million heart attacks occur in the United States each year. In 500,000 of those cases death occurs.
  • Over 13 million Americans have a history of heart attack or angina (pains relating to a pending heart attack).
  • US medical costs related to heart attacks are in excess of 60 billion dollars per year.

The Main Preventatives

So, how do you prevent heart disease and more especially heart attack?

  • Stop smoking – if you do. This is the number one prevention against heart attacks to stop smoking . Smoking even one to two cigarettes a day greatly increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular condition. In fact smokers are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers.
  • Lower your body’s cholesterol.
    Fatty substances in your blood, such as cholesterol and triglycerides, cause fatty deposits to build up in your arteries. The deposits over time reduce or block the blood flow and oxygen to your heart. This makes you much more prone to heart attacks.
  • Bring down high blood pressure.
    High blood pressure increases the workload of the heart and kidneys, increasing your risk of a heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
    The heavier you are, the harder your heart has to work. Overweight individuals are much more likely to suffer a heart attack than are their slimmer counterparts.
  • Exercise your body.
    Your heart, like any other muscle, needs a workout to stay strong. Activity and exercise, coupled with a healthy body weight, interact with many other risk factors and help you prevent heart disease and heart attacks.
  • Follow a healthy diet.
    The old saying, “You are what you eat, " rings true especially when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Four cardiac risk factors result from dietary mismanagement: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity, and all of these conditions help contribute to heart attacks.

Conclusion

Yes, heart attacks are preventable. The 6 points above each contribute to a healthier lifestyle, but perhaps more importantly to a healthier heart. Don’t take your heart health for granted. Without proactive measures on your part it is too easy to become just another heart attack statistic.

Graham Hobbs is a successful Webmaster and publisher of The Automated External Defibrillator , where he takes a closer look at heart attacks , sudden cardiac arrest and the automated external defibrillator.

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