Did you know that February is heart health month? Since our heart is so important to the body and health, take this month to discover ways to improve heart health. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in men and women and every year takes approximately 1 million lives, however, it can be prevented.
Heart and cardiovascular disease is not just one disease; it can be any disease of the heart including coronary artery disease, heart rhythm disorders, and congenital heart defects. Most commonly the term heart disease is referring to coronary artery disease which begins when hard cholesterol substances (plaques) are deposited within a coronary artery narrowing them. The plaques may rupture causing acute blockage of the artery by clot resulting in a heart attack or if severe, sudden cardiac death.. This is the condition that blocks the arteries that supply the heart with oxygenated blood, with fat, cholesterol, calcium and other materials in the blood often referred to as plaque. The plaque build up is often called atherosclerosis and these lesions can grow large enough to completely block an artery, or they can break off and travel throughout the body causing blockages resulting in a heart attack or if severe, sudden cardiac death.
Heart attacks are a medical emergency and it is imperative to have treatment immediately. Some symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue these symptoms can occur a few days or weeks before the heart attack. During a heart attack, a person may experience pain in the middle of the chest that can spread to the back, neck, jaw or arms. The person may also have pain or pressure in the stomach, which can be mistaken as indigestion may also occur. Other things that are common are nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, sweats, anxiety, skin on extremities taking on a blue tone, Some people do not feel any chest pain during the event of a heart attack and others will not admit to feeling ill enough to request medical assistance.
You can help a victim of a heart attack by calling 911 as soon as possible because every minute that goes by without treatment is more damaging to the heart. Have the victim chew on aspirin to help reduce the size of the blood clot. If the person goes unconscious, begin CPR because that can increase the chances of survival and use an AED if available because an electric shock provided by an AED can restore a normal heartbeat.
Some preventative measures you can take to make sure your heart is in tip top shape are: visit your doctor for a check up, know your family history and any risk factors that may be contributing to heart issues, keep your blood pressure under control, avoid smoking, keep diabetes under control, know cholesterol and triglyceride levels and maintain healthy ranges, eat healthy including fruits and vegetables, and maintain a healthy weight. Seeing your dentist regularly can also help prevent heart problems. Some of the bacteria found in the gums that cause bleeding can also be detrimental to heart issues. We are able to test for these pathogens and get them under control if needed by antibiotics with a simple saliva test.
Prevention is key, however, early intervention could be the difference between life and death. Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, you or your loved ones might be glad you do!