Heart attacks are responsible for one in five deaths. Although not all heart attacks are fatal, there are factors that can increase your risk of dying. However, it is not impossible to survive a heart attack, and appropriate steps may help you avoid one entirely. You can increase your chance of a longer, healthier life.
What Is A Heart Attack?
Myocardial infarction occurs when the blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly lost. This generally occurs when a blood clot creates a blockage in a coronary artery. When this artery cannot supply nutrients and blood to the person’s heart muscle, it results in the death of the muscle.
Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
Many people believe excruciating pain is the main, if not the only symptom of heart attacks. While chest pain can occur, it is not the only symptom. You can experience a heart attack with or without chest pain. In fact, women are less likely than men to experience chest pain during a heart attack.
Men and women alike can experience other unusual symptoms in their chests. A common example is a sense of pressure. You may feel as if something very heavy is on your chest. You may also feel an aching, squeezing, or tight sensation. You may feel these sensations spreading to your back, neck, arms, or jaw.
Heart attacks are often accompanied by unusual perspiration. You may break out in a cold sweat. You may feel pain in your abdomen, or experience heartburn, indigestion, or nausea. You may experience sudden lightheadedness, dizziness, or fatigue. Shortness of breath is another common symptom of a heart attack.
In some cases, heart attacks occur suddenly, with no symptoms or warning signs at all. Many individuals, though, do experience symptoms. You may have one or more warning signs days or even weeks before a heart attack happens. Often, recurring chest pain is the first sign that something is terribly wrong. You may feel pain after physical exertion, and it may disappear after you rest. As this can be the first sign of an approaching heart attack, never ignore this symptom. Obtain medical help immediately.
What To Do If You Have A Heart Attack When You Are Alone
What you do when you are having a heart attack can save your life. If you are alone, immediately call for an ambulance. Surviving a heart attack is only one reason you should have a fully-charged cell phone or a medical alert device with you at all times. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital, and do not seek assistance from a neighbor. Only a trained paramedic or EMT can provide the medical assistance you need on the way to the hospital.
If you experience a heart attack while driving, stop the car immediately. Unconsciousness can occur quickly.
If you are not taking medication that interacts with aspirin, slowly chew one aspirin tablet. Aspirin works as a blood thinner and can stop the blood clot from growing. Use a non-coated aspirin, and take it with a cool glass of water. The aspirin will get into your bloodstream faster if you chew or crush it. If you swallow it whole, it will take longer to work. You cannot afford to waste time when you are having a heart attack. Do not forget to inform the paramedics that you have taken an aspirin.
As heart attacks progress faster when you are physically active, relax your body. Cooling your body temperature is another important step to increase your chance of survival. You can place cool cloths on your wrists or in your armpits.
Risk Factors For Heart Attacks
Anyone can experience a heart attack, but you should know if you have issues that increase your risk. While not all risk factors can be changed, there are some that you can change.
- Age increases your risk of a heart attack. Men who are over 45 and women who are over 55 are in a higher risk category.
- Tobacco smoke is a risk factor. This includes smoke from your own cigarettes and second-hand smoke from other people.
- High blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure both damage your arteries.
- Diabetics have a higher risk than non-diabetics.
- Your family history can be a risk factor. This includes a grandparent, parent, or sibling who had an early heart attack. If a close male relative had a heart attack before age 55, or a female relative had one before age 65, you are in a higher risk category.
- Obesity, in general, increases your risk, but your risk can be even higher if the excess weight is on your abdomen.
- A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk. Another risk factor is difficulty coping with stress. Individuals who use illegal stimulant drugs are also at a higher risk of heart attacks.
- A diet that is high in salt, cholesterol or saturated fats can increase the risk of a heart attack.
Heart Health: Heart Attack Prevention For Seniors
Often, it is not impossible to prevent a heart attack. Prevention can begin by reducing risk factors that are within your ability to control. You should not wait until you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack to make healthy changes in your life. Now is the time to make heart health a priority.
Take an active, responsible role in your own health care. If you do not have any health problems, make and keep annual appointments with your personal physician. Visit more often if he advises you to do so. Cooperate with tests and medications, and take time to do your own research. As family history is second only to age as a risk factor, make sure your doctor knows if anyone in your family had a heart attack.
If you smoke, give up the habit. Make your home smoke-free so you are not exposed to second-hand smoke.
Choose a diet that is good for your heart. Restrict the sodium in your diet. It is not enough to avoid adding salt to your food. Many foods that are ready to heat and serve are high in sodium. Read labels before buying canned, boxed, or frozen foods.
Reduce foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fatty acids. Your heart will be healthier if your diet is not based on fast foods, whole-fat dairy products, and red meat. Instead, choose dairy products that are low fat or fat-free, poultry, and fish. Fish provides the extra benefit of Omega-3 fatty acids. Cold water, oily fish are especially good for your heart.
Have plenty of foods that are high in nutrients and fiber. Build your diet around legumes, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits. Eat oatmeal and whole-grain foods.
Too much sugar is bad for your heart. Avoid snacks, desserts, and beverages with empty calories. Instead of sugary treats, snack on nuts and seeds. Drink fresh fruit juice instead of carbonated beverages.
Avoid alcohol unless you drink in moderation. Women should not have more than one drink each day, and men should have no more than two.
The way you prepare and serve meals matters, too. You may be adding unhealthy fat and calories to your diet without realizing it. If you normally use fat for cooking, choose olive oil or vegetable oil instead of butter, margarine, or grease. You can avoid fat for cooking altogether by changing your cooking methods. Bake, broil, or boil the food instead of frying. If you use mayonnaise or butter at the table, replace it with fresh lemon juice.
A heart-healthy diet is nutritious, but it can also help you lose weight. Obesity is a significant risk factor for heart attacks. If a balanced diet that is low in fat and calories does not help you achieve your weight loss goals, ask your doctor for advice. Avoid diet pills and fad diets, and focus on nutrition. When you reach and maintain your ideal weight, it can keep your heart healthy.
Daily exercise is essential for seniors who want healthy hearts. If you are not accustomed to exercise, it does not need to be extreme. Walking is an easy form of exercise. You can walk outdoors, or around the mall. The key to making exercise work for you is to do it every day. Devote at least one-half hour each day to physical activity.
Reduce the stress in your life. If you think about it, there are situations that cause anxiety, anger, or worry that you can actually avoid. As it is impossible to eliminate all stress, stress-reduction techniques can be useful. A warm bath, reading, and yoga are some examples.
If you have a health condition that increases your risk of a heart attack, cooperate fully with your physician. Common examples include high blood pressure or cholesterol, and diabetes.
If you are a senior and live alone, consider hiring a home care aide. There are many ways an aide can help you stay healthy and happy during your older years.
Non-medical aides are excellent companions for seniors. This is especially important if you do not have family members or close friends nearby. Talking to your aide about anything that is bothering you will relieve much of your stress. Your aide will enjoy hearing about you and your life, including your past. You can relive joyful times and sad times with someone who listens and cares. With an aide, you will not have the burden of loneliness. You can have a more active life, and participate in the community. You will love to share good times with your home care aide.
Aging in place is easier with a home care aide, too. Even if you are healthy, your aide can assist with chores. She can prepare tasty, nutritious meals for you, and make sure you have a well-balanced diet. Your aide can remind you to take medication on time. If you need help with light housekeeping, you will see your home is neat, clean, and fresh. Your aide can also help with errands, such as picking up items at the grocery store, or taking mail to the post office.
While all of these factors can help you stay healthier and happier, there is an additional reason to consider hiring a non-medical home care aide. The worst time to be alone is when an emergency situation occurs. It can also be the most dangerous time. If you have a heart attack, for example, you may panic and not know what to do, or you may lose consciousness before you can call for help. In a situation where fast, appropriate action is needed to save your life, surviving a heart attack can depend on your home care aide.
Your aide is trained to deal with medical emergencies. However, while prompt care can help you survive a heart attack, there are other reasons it is beneficial to have an aide present during an emergency. She can call for an ambulance, and she can help you stay calm and comfortable until the ambulance arrives. You will have a better chance of surviving, and a heart attack will not be such a frightening experience when your home care aide is with you.
Enjoy Your Senior Years With A Healthy Heart
When you are healthy, you can enjoy your life. Heart health is a top example. When your heart is healthy, you can be more active. You can have peace of mind instead of constant worry.
Whether you are elderly or in your early senior years, you should not hesitate to take steps to become healthier. Many of the health risks you currently have can be changed. Only a few changes in your everyday life can make a difference.
A home care aide can make a difference, too. When you have an aide, you can avoid loneliness, and chores will be completed when you cannot do them yourself. Equally important, you will have someone with you if you do experience an emergency. You will know you are with a capable, responsible person who cares about you and will help in any emergency situation.