Nobody likes to think about the possibility of having a heart attack but it’s a very real threat.
Once the symptoms of a heart attack start, problems can progress rather rapidly and you need to react quickly and being prepared can be the difference between life and death.
The tips that we are going to look at today are there to help increase your chances of survival in the event that you have a heart attack while alone.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
The first step towards learning how to survive a heart attack is to learn what the symptoms are. There are common symptoms that appear in almost all cases and then there are those that are not so common.
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
As I mentioned, not everyone will experience the same set of symptoms or those that do, will not get them to the same severity. When I had my second heart attack I experienced very little pain at all.
Some heart attacks can come on quite suddenly, but many people have warning signs and symptoms up to weeks in advance. The earliest warning might be recurrent chest pain or pressure (angina) that’s triggered by exertion and relieved by rest. Angina is caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart.
What to do if you See Someone Having a Heart Attack
If you believe that somebody is having a heart attack, the first step must always be to call emergency services. They will walk you through what needs doing but the general idea will be to check if they are breathing, if not, you may have to do CPR.
If you haven’t been trained in CPR, doctors recommend performing only chest compressions. If you have been trained in CPR, you can go on to opening the airway and rescue breathing.
What Causes a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when one or more of your coronary arteries become blocked. During a heart attack, one of these plaques can rupture and spill cholesterol and other substances into the bloodstream. A blood clot forms at the site of the rupture. If large enough, the clot can block the flow of blood through the coronary artery, starving the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients.
The above describes the most common cause of a heart attack but it isn’t the only one. Another is a spasm of a coronary artery that shuts down blood. This is often seen in drug users and heavy smokers.
There are a number of factors that can lead to a heart attack. Many of these increase over time so they can be stopped if reached early enough.
- Age – there isn’t exactly a lot that you can do about your age, I get that but it has been found that men, 45 or older, and women, 55 or older are more likely to have a heart attack.
- Smoking – I am guilty as charged on this one but it isn’t just the smoker at risk but also those breathing the second-hand smoke.
- High blood pressure – high blood pressure can damage arteries that feed your heart. This can come along with other concerns such as obesity, diabetes or high cholesterol too making it even worse.
- High blood cholesterol – a high level of “bad” cholesterol is most likely to narrow arteries. A high level of triglycerides, a type of blood fat related to your diet, also ups your risk of heart attack. However, a high level of good cholesterol lowers your risk of heart attack.
- Obesity – obesity leads to a wide range of health problems including the risks of heart attacks.
- Diabetes – if our body doesn’t create enough insulin or it doesn’t react to the insulin properly, our blood sugar levels will rise increasing our chances of a heart attack.
- History – family history of heart attack. If your siblings, parents or grandparents have had early heart attacks (by age 55 for male relatives and by age 65 for female relatives), you might be at increased risk.
- Lack of exercise – those that exercise regularly have better all-round fitness, including lower high blood pressure.
- Stress – this was what both of my heart attacks were put down too. People respond to stress in different ways and some worse than others. Doing so can increase our risk of a heart attack.
- Drugs – using stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines, can trigger a spasm of your coronary arteries that can cause a heart attack.
Preventing a Heart Attack
If you wait until after you have a heart attack before making changes, it’s too late. While it can be too late, it can never be too early to take steps to prevent a heart attack.
Medications – make sure that all medications are taken as intended. If you have had a heart attack and placed on medication, take as prescribed as they will help to prevent a subsequent heart attack.
Lifestyle – you know these ones but they need to be said. Eat a healthy diet, no smoking, exercise, manage stress