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Heart disease, an old-age ailment, nowadays has emerged as a major lifestyle concern. Rate of heart diseases in india is twice that of western countries.
Heart disease - one of number one cause of mortality, especially among young indians. Almost 50% of all heart attacks in indian men occur under 50 years of age and 25% occur under 40 years of age.
Despite being a growing concern, not many us are aware of the most common heart attack symptoms. Though a person's genetic disposition and family history remain as the most common and uncontrollable risk factors, majority of heart diseases may be caused due to modifiable factors like blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, stress and weight issues. Our high risk lifestyle emerges as the biggest risk factor.
In most cases, a heart attack occurs when a blood clot is formed in one of the blood vessels responsible for supplying blood to the heart, when the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is disrupted due to certain blockages in the coronary arteries.
Lack of knowledge often causes a delay in handling the situation, which could aggravate the damage and in some cases prove to be fatal. Early medical attention and treatment decrease morbidity and mortality.
The early symptoms:
- The most common - sharp and constricting pain in the center of the chest, which may radiates to the left side of the body, particularly the left arm, back, chin and jaw discomfort.
- Profuse sweating – diaphoresis due to the over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system.
- In diabetic patients sweating, feeling light headed and momentary black outs are more common than feeling sharp pain.
- Dizziness and losing consciousness.
- Discomfort in the upper part of the abdomen and a burning sensation - can sometimes mistaken as acidity or heartburn.
- A strong feeling of nausea.
- Unexplained fatigue, paleness, palpitations and anxiety are other symptoms.
- In women presentation can be atypical. Other symptoms, like lightheadedness, nausea, extreme fatigue, fainting, dizziness, abdominal pain or pressure in the upperback.
Do's and don'ts – when a heart attack occurs?
What to do-
- Call for emergency medical help.
- Make the person lie down flat on a firm surface and loosen clothing.
- Clear the airway and allow him to take a few deep breaths.
- The pulse should be checked not on the wrist but on any one side of the neck (carotid). Check for the regularity of the neck pulse.
- Try giving him oxygen if breathless.
- Turn the patient one side if feeling nauseating and let him vomit so as prevent aspiration into the lungs.
- Raise both the legs to improve the supply of blood to the heart.
- Isosorbide dinitrate is a vasodilator, widens blood vessels and makes it easier for blood to flow through them and reach the heart. It is available in the form of pills and should be taken sublingually.
- If the person is unconscious, no pulse, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (cpr. Call for help. If you don't know cpr, you can still help in rescuing by helping others. American heart association has given simplified way of cpr. Everyone should know cpr.
- Cpr stands for" cardiopulmonary resuscitation" it is a way to get blood and oxygen moving throughout the body of someone whose heart has stopped working.
- Cpr can save a person's life. It can keep the brain and other organs from being damaged by lack of oxygen. It is something you do until the heart can be shocked back into action or until it becomes clear the person cannot be saved.
What not to do-
- Do not try to feed the patient anything and it is best to avoid oral medication.
- Thumping and pumping the chest without knowing the heart rhythm should be avoided.
- Famous self-administered treatment of coughing repeatedly is unlikely to help.
- It is important to note that most lifesaving medications that help in recovering from a heart attack, work best when given within one or two hours of experiencing the first symptoms, when the cardiac damage is limited. Therefore, in such situations time is most crucial. Recognizing the early symptoms and immediate medical attention can save many lives.