Do you know the common warning signs of an upcoming heart attack, the symptoms and how to prepare?
You better. If not, you don’t even know your heart is crying out for help because it’s overloaded……
I touch on this subject because I’m always in tears when I hear news of friends, colleagues and family members who die prematurely from heart attack.
Heart disease, which is closely related to attacks, is the number one killer disease that claims countless lives, both men and women.
You and I should know what causes it and how to better prepare ourselves to take good care of our heart health.
As we age, our heart lose some blood-pumping ability. This is normal.
But what I’m touching on here is the more serious loss that we call heart failure (or heart attack) that results from increased stress of health conditions that either damage our heart or make it work too hard.
12 Common Causes of Heart Attack
1. Coronary Artery Disease
When you build up cholesterol and fatty deposits in your heart’s arteries, you’ve less blood flowing to your heart muscle. This damages your heart muscle and the remaining undamaged, healthy heart tissues has to work doubly hard.
Sometimes, the effect of cholesterol on your heart could be quite fatal…..
2. High Blood Pressure
When your blood pressure shoots up uncontrollably, it increases your risk of developing heart attack by 2-3 times.
When your blood pressure is too high, your heart needs to pump harder than normal to keep the blood flowing. This takes a toll on your heart and over time, your heart chambers get larger and weaker.
With diabetes, you tend to develop hypertension and atherosclerosis from elevated lipid levels in your blood and both are linked to heart failure.
Obesity is one of the most common causes of heart attack.
If you’re obese, the risk increases significantly especially if you’ve much of the fat deposited in your abdomen as abdominal fat is the type of fat closely associated with heart disease.
A rule of thumb is that for men, a waist circumference of more than 85 cm (34 inches) and for women, a waist circumference of more than 80 cm (32 inches), increases the risk.
Studies have indicated that stress is most dangerous when it’s “ongoing and unceasing”; it’s constantly present pressuring you at work, and at home.
Smoking is associated with a 36% increase in risk of heart attack.
Smoking 1 to 5 cigarettes a day increases risk by 40% compared with non-smokers.
Smoking 20 cigarettes a day (one pack) is associated with a 4-fold increase in risk.
Smoking 2 or more packs a day is associated with a 9-fold increase in risk.
7. Cholesterol Size
Recent studies suggest that cholesterol level could be one of the causes as smaller, denser cholesterol molecules can more easily invade the artery wall causing inflammation and atherosclerosis plaque.
The higher the amounts of smaller and denser particles, the higher the risks relative to larger cholesterol particles.
This factor alone could increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 54% alone.
8. Microvascular Disease
Heart attacks can also can occur due to problems with the very small, microscopic blood vessels of your heart. This condition is known as microvascular disease and is closely related to diabetes. It’s believed to be more common in women than in men.
9. Severe Spasm (Tightening) Of A Coronary Artery
When this happens, it cuts off blood flow through your artery. The spasm can happen in coronary arteries that don’t have coronary artery disease.
Causes of the spasm could be due to:
- Drugs, like cocaine
- Exposure to extreme cold
- Emotional stress/pain
10. Abnormal Heart Valves
This can result from disease, infection (endocarditis) or a defect present at birth.
When your heart’s valves don’t open or close completely during each heartbeat, your heart muscle has to pump harder to keep the blood moving.
If the workload becomes too great, heart failure results.
11. Heart Muscle Diseases (dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) Or Inflammation (myocarditis)
You could have caused damages to your heart muscle, using either drug or alcohol or because of viral infections or unknown reasons. This increases your risk of heart failure.
12. Other conditions
Sometimes your healthy heart may temporarily unable to function healthily due to:
- Low red blood cell count (severe anemia) – With not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen, your heart tries to move the small number of cells at a faster heart rate. It can become overtaxed from the effort
- An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) – it causes your body to work at a faster pace, and your heart can overwork trying to keep up
- Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia or dysrhythmia) – this is when your heart beats too fast, too slow or irregularly, so it may not be able to pump enough blood to meet all your body’s needs
Heart Attack Common Symptoms in Women
OK, let’s look at “Prior to Attack” Phase
In this phase, the major symptoms in women are:
- Unusual fatigue
- Sleep disturbance
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting that won’t stop
- Heart palpitations
- Breathlessness (but not sighing) with exertion or especially if it wakes you up at night
- Edema–fluid retention and swelling usually of the ankles or lower legs
- Discomfort in lower jaw especially if it occurs only with exertion or will not go away
- Discomfort in the upper back especially if it occurs only with exertion or will not go away
- Discomfort in the chest or back that occurs when doing usual chores after a large meal
- Sudden racing heart sensation with a very fast pulse
- Sudden loss of consciousness
- Sense of impending doom
- Unable to do usual household chores
In some cases, symptoms like palpitations, fluid retention and sleep disturbance might possibly be symptoms of perimenopause. One more thing – heart disease usually goes along with inflammation.
So, it’s good to monitor inflammation symptoms too as a helpful way to assess your risk of having a heart attack.
Some major inflammation symptoms to look for:
- Elevated levels of CRP, homocysteine, or LDL
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance or diabetes
- Joint pain or arthritis
- GI distress, bloating, constipation/diarrhea
- Food and other allergies/sensitivities
- Chronic respiratory difficulties, asthma, or bronchitis
- Dry, itchy skin, rash, psoriasis or eczema
- Weight gain/obesity
- Fever or chronic infection
Now, let’s look at “During the Attack” Phase
In this phase, major heart attack symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual fatigue
- Cold sweat
Who’s Most at Risk?
Well, if you’re:
- Having high blood pressure
- Having family history of arteriosclerotic heart disease before age 60
- Having diabetes
- Having high cholesterol
- Under a lot of stress
The more of these factors that apply to you, the greater your risk.
The Common Solution
As you go down the list of the common causes, can you constantly see the common solution that jumps out at you?
That the combo of exercise and healthy diet is the “common solution” to most of the causes of heart disease, and the fatty deposit build up in arteries that are the most common cause of heart problems.
This brings me to the subject of prevention.
I’m giving you a very snapshot view of it:
- Exercise at least 3-4 times per week for at least 30 minutes per session. Cardio exercise is a must as it works on your heart, strengthening and conditioning it to stronger shape, so that it pumps blood efficiently. It also kick starts your metabolism into higher gear , so you burn off fat faster and easier, to lose weight P-s-s-s-t-t-t……Your heart is a muscle and the right exercise will strengthen it……
- Eat a well-balanced, healthy nutritious diet (some choose the DASH diet)
- Quit smoking
- Treat related conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes
- If you’re overweight or obese, lose the lbs
Take one step at a time when you decide to change your lifestyle and eating habit.