How to Prevent a Heart Attack
So that we can learn how to prevent a heart attack, we must first learn what exactly a heart attack is. A heart attack is a medical emergency that normally occurs when blood flow to the heart suddenly becomes blocked or significantly reduced. Without this blood flow, the heart tissue loses oxygen, and can die.
Although not usual, a heart attack can also be caused by a spasm of the coronary artery. This coronary spasm restricts and reduces blood flow to the heart muscle.
Medical terms for a heart attack are myocardial infarction or MI, acute myocardial infarction, coronary thrombosis, or coronary occlusion.
Heart Attack Symptoms
Heart attack symptoms can include a pain in the chest, arms, neck, or back, shortness of breath, cold sweats, anxiety, lightheadedness, fatigue, and/or abnormal heart beat or rythym. It is also possible to have no symptoms.
A silent heart attack is a fairly common occurence, as well. It is possible for a person to have a heart attack, and not know it. This is called silent ischemia. Ischemia is defined as lack of oxygen.
It is estimated that a heart attack occurs every 40 seconds in the U.S.
What Causes a Heart Attack
Perhaps the most common cause of a heart attack is a plague buildup in the arteries, also known as artherosclerosis. Blood clots, or a torn blood vessel can also be a cause of heart attacks.
Within these causes are risk factors that can generate the conditions surrounding the occurence of a heart attack. Some of the more common risk factors are:
Sex: Men have more heart attacks than women, but that is not to say that women are not at risk, they are.
Age: Your heart attack risk is greater if you are over the age of 65.
Race: People of African descent have a higher risk factor for heart attack than other races. This is not to say that other races are not at risk. They are.
Family History/Genetics: A family history of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure puts one more at risk. However, this doesn’t mean that it has a genetic cause necessarily.
Many family habits, lifestyle, and traits can be passed down from generation to generation. The Human Genome project determined that less than 1/2 of 1 percent of all diseases have a genetic cause at it’s core.
Stress: Stress can be caused by many things such as job, family, health, finances, and diet, and is often another major factor in heart attack/disease.
Lack of Exercise: Light to Moderate exercise seems to help fend off heart issues for many people. Little or no exercise can have the opposite effect.
Obesity/Diet: Being overweight, and having a poor diet can make heart issues much more likely.
Smoking: Cigarette smoking is one of the least healthy habits you can force on your body. It can contribute to heart disease and many other health issues.
Drinking Alcohol: Drinking alcohol to excess is a big risk factor for heart attack. However, it has been shown that light drinking of alcohol, 1 or 2 drinks per day, may lower stress levels, and may actually be factor in preventing heart attacks.
High Blood Pressure: Especially when combined with other risk factors, high blood pressure can be a significant factor in heart attack risk.
It is difficult to diagnose a heart attack before it happens, but it is very possible to diagnose if someone is a likely candidate for a heart attack. It is, of course also possible to have a heart attack without knowing it.
A doctor will look at medical history of a given patient, do a physical examination, and take blood and other tests, such as a stress test on a treadmill where heart rate, blood pressure, and heart rythym are monitored to determine if there is any clear evidence of damage to the heart.
To further define the evidence of heart disease, a doctor may perform a cardiac catherization where he can view areas that may have blockages. He may also inject dye into the arteries to attempt to locate any blockages or plague buildup that can be seen with an xray.
How to Prevent a Heart Attack
Now that we know the causes, risk factors, and what a doctor looks for to diagnose heart disease, and how dangerous it can be, we need to focus and concentrate on how to prevent a heart attack.
If you have never had a heart attack, had one heart attack, or multiple heart attacks, this information will help you to decrease your chances of having a heart attack in the future. Of course, ultimately it is up to you to take the information and put it into action.
Prevention of heart attacks, heart disease, and many other health problems is very much within our control. We make decisions every day that will have a profound impact on whether we live long, healthy, fulfilling lives, or whether our existence is mired with sickness, disease, and resulting unhappiness.
It is not just what we do, but also what we don’t do that determines our futures.
What not to do.
- Drinking alcohol to excess is also directly linked to heart attacks, and many other health issues. However, if you can limit your drinking to 1 or 2 drinks per day max, you may contribute to heart attack prevention. Within the alcohol realm, red wine seems to have the most health benefits. And within red wine, organic, dry farm wines, appear to be the optimum to drink.
- Taking drugs, both legal, and illegal can be dangerous to your heart health. Especially drugs like cocaine, meth amphetamine, and other ‘uppers’ can cause the heart rate to race, and create arrythmias, and other irregularities.
- Even taking barbiturates or ‘downers’ can cause heart problems when combined with exercise, and other drugs or alcohol. My best advice is to only take prescription drugs when absolutely needed. Illegal drugs, of course, should always be avoided.
- Eating processed foods, especially foods that contain high levels of saturated fats found in many meats, and other dishes should be shunned. It is also a good idea to stay away from fried foods, fat laden cheeses, sauces, and the like. If you do eat meat, eat leaner cuts of grass fed meat with no hormones or anti biotics added, and limit your portion sizes. Avoid table salt. This super heated salt is stripped of all vitamins and minerals, and can increase blood pressure.
- Don’t be a couch potato! Laying around the house, whether it is in front of the tv, the computer, cooking fatty foods on the deck, or hanging out in the man cave should not be a too common occurence. Although enjoying yourself is fine, it can also be taken to excess. People that don’t exercise, and seldom take in any fresh air or Vitamin D from the sun are at much higher risk for heart attack.
- Don’t let the world get you down. It is easy to be negatively affected by the world around us, whether that is your spouse, family, job, the state of the country, depressing news, finances, or any other reason. Not maintaing an even keel, and a sense of Joie de Vivre or joy of life can lead to high stress levels, and even the dreaded heart disease.
- Don’t work too hard. Many people have stressful occupations, and work long hours. Their entire lives revolve around their work, and they leave little time for anything else. It’s not difficult to figure out that over time, this all work and no play scenario can be a recipe for disaster. It is commendable to want to do a great job, and be successful, but don’t do it to the detriment of your health.
What You Should Do
There are many things that can be done to prevent heart disease, and heart attacks. Remember that most of it is within your control.
Sleep a minimum of 7 hours each night. It is also very important to have at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. This will help with stress, adrenaline production, and immune system regeneration.
Eat a heart healthy diet. There are many foods you can eat that can help you have a healthy heart. The main rule of thumb is to eliminate the garbage.
By garbage I mean the processed, refined, fried, chemical laden foods. You should eat whole, organic, fresh, raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, non farm raised fish, fermented foods, and whole grains to the extent possible.
If you eat meat, eat lean, grass fed meat that does not contain added hormones, or anti biotics. Limiting your consumption of
meat is an important component of a healthy diet.
When eating cooked food, steamed, and baked is much preferable to fried.
Eat Heart Healthy Foods
Non Farm Raised Salmon. Wild salmon can be called Sockeye Salmon, North Atlantic Salmon, Alaskan Salmon, and some others. If in doubt, ask at the supermarket, or the waiter to be sure the salmon is not farm raised. Even much sushi today is made from farm raised salmon. Wild Salmon is high in Omega 3 fatty acids, and the mineral selenium. Raw or baked are best methods to prepare and enjoy wild salmon.
Walnuts These super healthy nuts are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, folate, a B vitamin, fiber, and natural Vitamin E(d alpha tocopherol) Almonds are also high in Omega 3’s, and are heart healthy.
Blueberries These anti-oxidant fruit powerhouses are high in resveratrol, and flavonoids, both very heart healthy.
Fermented Foods make B vitamins, different types of probiotics, as well as the heralded Omega-3 fatty acids. B vitamins are particularly effective in alleviating, and combating stress, and fermented foods provide a highly bio available form of these nutrients that the body can easily absorb, and utilize.
B vitamins also reduce levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to heart disease due to causing inflammation of the arteries. Some common fermented foods are: sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, miso, natto, kefir, pickles, and apple cider vinegar.
Dark Chocolate Indulging in dark chocolate is heart healthy because it’s flavonols help lower blood pressure by relaxing arteries. Make sure it is organic dark chocolate that doesn’t contain refined sugar, or other processed additives such as high saturated fat oils.
Cauliflower High in anti-oxidants, fiber, and allicin. Allicin is found more commonly in garlic, and has been shown to lower cholesterol, and decrease the chance for heart attacks.
Sweet Potatoes or Yams Helps to reduce high blood pressure do to it’s high content of potassium, Vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
Beets Another high potassium super star, beets help lower blood pressure, and are a good source of betaine, and folate which can lower your levels of homosysteine. Homosysteine can damage your arteries by causing inflammation.
Beans The high soluble fiber content in beans, along with heart healthy flavonoids, help reduce cholesterol, and reduce platelet adhesion in the blood, which can reduce risk of strokes, and heart attacks. Pinto beans, and black beans are among many that provide these benefits.
Natto This fermented soy bean dish from Japan is one of the heart healthiest foods you can eat. It has been used in Japan for over 1000 years as a remedy for heart and vascular diseases. Natto can break down plague, and can dissolve blod clots. Other heart healthy fermented soy foods are Miso, and Tempeh.
There are many other heart healthy foods. Emphasizing a plant based diet to the extent possible will greatly enhance your chances of fending off heart disease.
Healthy Heart Supplements
It is true that with all of the genetically modified produce, over farming, and chemical additives in the soil and on the crops that even normally healthy plant based foods are often greatly compromised, and devoid of nutrient content.
Even eating organic, raw, and plant based may not be enough due to our aging body’s lower levels of hydrochloric acid, and enzymes needed to digest our food, and send nutrients to the cells.
A bad diet can also compromise the cell’s ability to absorb nutrients, and expel wastes, which can lead to more health issues.
Luckily, there are many highly bio available, and easily absorbable supplements, and nutrients available that provide the critically needed nutrition for a healthy heart, and healthy cardiavascular system that are lacking from our diet.
It is vital to use a ‘live source’ supplement, or you are simply throwing your money away.
B Vitamins: B’s help with cell metabolism, and energy, fight free radicals, boost HDL (good cholesterol), and lower homocysteine levels. Additional B vitamin benefits include helping to detox the liver.
COQ10 or COQuinol: COQ10 is a big player in heart cellular energy. COQ10 deficiency is associated with heart failure.
HCL (Hydrochloric Acid) loss of HCL is associated with heart artery blockage. As we age the HCL levels in our stomachs decrease, and unless we supplement we can’t fully digest our food, and, as a result send our cells it’s needed nutrition. Good digestion also keeps homocysteine levels low.
Good Oils (Essential Fatty Acids) supports cardiovascular system, and will increase HCL (Hydrochloric Acid).
Good Salt helps control blood pressure, and increases HDL (Hydrochloric Acid). Sun dried sea salt, and some pink salts are ideal.
Acetyl L Carnitine this super anti-oxidant has been shown to help with angina by relieving chest pain, shrinking dead tissue, and improving blood flow. Also an effective brain nutrient.
Magnesium this important mineral helps control high blood pressure, and irregular heart beat/heart rythym.
D-Ribose supports ATP production which aids the hearts energy, diastolic function, and muscle contraction. Helps in treating angina, arrythmia, heart failure, statin caused myalgia, and peripheral vascular disease.
Grape Seed Extract helps prevent blood vessels from damage, useful in treating high blood pressure or hypertension, and helps lower LDL ( Low Density Lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol levels.
Find Your Happy Place
An important aspect of how to prevent a heart attack, and just as important as eating a healthy diet, is to find enjoyment, contentment, and peace in life.
What works for me is a long walk in the woods, 1 to 3 times per week. I am able to get some exercise, fresh air, and I can commune with nature all at the same time. Something about being out among the squirrels, and the deer provides a relaxing, peaceful experience that allows me to forget the hassles, and stresses of work, and life in general, and rejuvenates my mind, body, and spirit.
Your happy place may be a beach, or a park, or perhaps a stream, or a river, or maybe just sitting on your patio or deck off the back of your home. Whatever it is, and whereever it is, take some time to find a place where you can relax, destress, and unwind. And go there often. Your heart will thank you for it.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to perform long, intense periods of exercise in order to receive an aerobic benefit. In fact, exercise of long duration, and high intensity may even create more health issues than it solves, especially if you are in the over 40 age group. It is now known that just walking 2 or 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes at a time can provide a significant heart, and overall health benefit, and may be more beneficial than many other types of exercise.
People that walk regularly have less incidence of osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, stress, stroke, and heart disease than those that don’t exercise.
Activities such as yoga, and meditation also have positive effect on heart health.
Being socially isolated or lonely can increase a person’s risk for heart disease and strokes according to many recent studies. It was also discovered that those that maintained their social interactions have a much longer life expectancy than those that do not.
Get in Touch with Your Spiritual Side
Many longevity studies have shown that those that attend services, or are involved with religious, and spiritual organizations or communities are less likely to develop heart disease, and their life expectancies are an average of 10 -12 years longer than those that shun spirituality.
Do What You Love for a Living
The old saying goes, if you do what you love for a living, you will never work a day in your life. This is also considered the ‘secret of success’. Since we spend a great deal of time at work, or at least most of us do, it just makes sense that we should find an occupation that we love. This bit of advice is more appropo for those not yet retired, but it affects the majority of us.
It is common sense that if we enjoy our work, we will be less stressed, feel more satisfied, and probably achieve more in the process.
Put it into Practice
Knowing how to prevent a heart attack is one thing. The other is to actually put it into practice. If you are the type of person that doesn’t like to make abrupt changes in your lifestyle, try a gradual approach.
Make a few positive changes per week, and add a few more as you go. You may find that once you feel better, you will become addicted to a healthier pattern of behavior, and look forward to becoming healthier every day.
You owe it to yourself, and your family to take care of yourself. Start today to be good to yourself. Your heart will thank you for it.