Heart attacks happen when there’s a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of the heart muscle. Without a sufficient supply of blood and oxygen your heart can be seriously damaged. The primary cause is heart disease, a process whereby fatty substances such as cholesterol clog up the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.
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Heart attack symptoms can come on suddenly and unexpectedly.
This can be frightening because it gives you a very short window to respond.
A timely response is critical to reduce the damage inflicted on the heart muscle.
Some people can be alerted to the life-threatening complication months in advance if not longer, however.
According to Sutter Zi-Jian Xu, M.D., a cardiologist affiliated with the health body Sutter Health, the majority of patients experience somewhat typical symptoms, such as radiating chest pain, heaviness or discomfort, heart palpitations, cold sweats, and shortness of breath.
Others – women more so than men – will experience some atypical symptoms as well, which may include fatigue, a general sense of unease, vague discomfort, back or abdominal pain and declining stamina, noted Zi-Jian.
These symptoms can show up long before the deadly event takes place, he said.
How does this happen?
According to Zi-Jian Xu, symptoms can emerge slowly as coronary disease progresses.
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He explained: “In this situation, an artery is getting narrower over time.
“When the artery is narrowed down to more than 70 percent, a person will start to have warning symptoms ahead of time, especially with physical exertion.”
This is encouraging because it gives some people plenty of opportunity to avert a heart attack.
How to prevent a heart attack
Making lifestyle changes is the most effective way to prevent having a heart attack.
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One of the surest ways to ward off the deadly complication is to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
This means shunning unhealthy foods known to trigger the underlying mechanisms.
According to the NHS, you should avoid foods containing high levels of saturated fat, as they increase levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
LDL cholesterol is a fatty substance that sticks to your artery walls and eventually causes a blockage.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- Fried foods
- Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- Ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
- Hard cheese
- Cakes and biscuits
- Foods that contain coconut or palm oil
Instead, you should aim to follow a Mediterranean-style diet, advises the NHS.
“This means eating more bread, fruit, vegetables and fish, and less meat,” explains the health body.
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