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Prevention is Key

February 17, 2023   |  Blog

By Brian Dolsey, MD, FACC, FSCAI, ProMedica Physicians Cardiology

February is American Heart Month, which serves to motivate Americans to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle to prevent heart disease. Taking routine steps to care for your heart and knowing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack could save your life.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack. A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when there is a prolonged decrease of blood or oxygen to the heart. This results in the death of the heart muscle. There are several ways this can occur, the most common instances being blockage of a coronary artery and plaque rupture.

Understanding common and atypical symptoms can help to ensure that you or a loved one receive life-saving care quickly. The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain. Atypical symptoms of a heart attack include nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, pain in the arm, jaw, back or neck. Heart attack symptoms can vary between men and women. Men typically have more classic chest pain, whereas women tend to have more atypical symptoms. It is also possible to have a silent heart attack. A silent heart attack occurs when either minimal or no symptoms are present.

Seeking medical attention is imperative if heart attack symptoms are present. If proper medical attention is not obtained in those critical first moments of a heart attack, heart damage can become permanent, and a person could suffer fatal effects.

The emergency room is the best course of action for heart attack symptoms. Never drive yourself or a loved one to the emergency room; calling 911 will help ensure that care is received as quickly as possible.

Even if a person has not been diagnosed with heart disease, they may still be at risk for a heart attack. Some risk factors include obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, tobacco use, diabetes, family history, age, sex and a sedentary lifestyle.

The good news is there are several small changes you can begin doing today to help keep your heart healthy. Eating heart-healthy foods, staying active and limiting alcohol are great options to begin taking care of your heart at home.

A healthy diet and lifestyle are the keys to preventing heart disease. Maintaining a diet of fruit, leafy green vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and healthy oils helps support overall heart health. Limiting red meat, foods with lots of sodium and processed foods can also lower risk.

Exercise goes hand-in-hand with a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, preferably spread throughout the week.

Taking steps to be conscious of your heart health can help reduce the risk of heart disease throughout the year.