Love Your Heart: The ABCs for Heart Attack Prevention

February_Heart_MonthMore than 1.5 million Americans will suffer from a heart attack this year. Hard to believe that’s true when just paying attention to certain risk factors can protect you.

During “Heart Month,” Regal wants to remind you that when it comes to fighting heart disease “You’re the Cure”! Focus on your heart’s health, know the warning signs of a heart attack, and learn what you can do to prevent it. The life you save might be your own.

What Causes A Heart Attack?

There can be many underlying causes of a heart attack, from clots to coronary artery disease. Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that blocks one of the coronary arteries which bring blood and oxygen to the heart. Many are caused by a slow buildup of plaque that narrows one of the coronary arteries so that it is almost blocked. Often a piece of the plaque breaks off and a blood clot forms around it causing a blockage. Less often, a heart attack occurs due to a spasm in an artery that supplies blood to the heart. Heart disease causing an attack can range from conditions like angina and arrhythmia to congenital heart defects.

What Does A Heart Attack Feel Like?

Everyone, even your kids, should know what the “red flags” of a heart attack are and what to do if you are experiencing them.

A heart attack may occur:

  •      ~  When you are resting or asleep
  •      ~  After a sudden increase in physical activity
  •      ~  When you are active outside in cold weather
  •      ~  After sudden, severe emotional or physical stress, including an illness

Not everyone has the classic sign of a heart attack: sudden, pain in the neckintense chest pain. The chest pain may be mild or feel more like pressure or fullness. Not everyone has the same symptoms either, so you should know all the signs of a heart attack. Gals and guys have different symptoms, but both may experience chest pain, pressure, or discomfort. You may also feel pain in the neck, jaw, or shoulder area. Symptoms can also include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and among the elderly could take the form of dizziness and fainting spells.

Males are more likely to break out in a cold sweat and feel pain move down the left arm during a heart attack. But females are more likely to have back or neck pain, heartburn, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and indigestion. They may also feel extremely tired, light-headed, or dizzy. Flu-like symptoms and sleep problems may also occur shortly before a heart attack.

What Do You Do When Minutes Count During A Heart Attack?

If you have symptoms that might be a heart attack, call 911 immediately. DO NOT try to drive yourself or the victim to the hospital. Emergency personnel can give treatment on the way to the hospital and are trained to revive a person if their heart stops. The key to recovery is to get blood flow restored quickly. You’re more likely to survive if you get treated within 90 minutes. The person with heart attack symptoms should chew and swallow an aspirin to lower the risk of a blood clot, but since aspirin can be harmful for some people, don’t take it unless told to do so by emergency or medical personnel. If the victim is unconscious, hands-only CPR can double chances of survival.

Who Is At Risk?

blood_pressure_screeningThe odds of a heart attack naturally increase with age, but other factors come into play as well. For instance, a family history of heart disease increases your risk. Other things that can raise your risk of a heart attack are obesity, a lack of exercise, depression, and stress. A new study reports Shingles infections may also increase the risk of heart attacks in the weeks after an outbreak. Smoking can raise your risk of a heart attack. So can having high cholesterol levels, diabetes and high blood pressure. While there is debate over how aggressively high blood pressure should be treated in older patients, the definition of a healthy blood pressure does not change with age for the general population.

Experts disagree about whether older patients should be treated with medication to get their blood pressure below 140/90, because that often requires using several drugs, which may interact with other medications, and the treatment can cause dizziness and increase the risk of falls. The American College of Cardiology still recommends getting blood pressure below 140/90 in people up to 80 years old, and the American Heart Association says blood pressure should be under 140/90 until about age 75.

How To Take Care Of Your Heart So It Will Take Care Of You?

The American Heart Association recommends these ABCs for heart attack prevention:

  •      ~  Avoid tobacco.
  •      ~  Become more active.
  •      ~  Choose good nutrition.

Regal’s clinicians say it’s never too late to get started and recommend:

  •      ~  Stop smoking right this minute!
  •      ~  Start exercising which is extremely beneficial for heart health.*
  •      ~  Manage your weight, watch your alcohol intake, and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  •      ~  If you are diabetic, keep a watch on your blood sugar.
  •      ~  Cut salt consumption where you can
  •      ~  Always take heart and blood pressure medications that have been prescribed for you.
  •      ~  Get enough rest and manage your stress levels.

*The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, 5 days a week. But for some people in seemingly good health, heavy exercise might pose a danger. So ask your doctor first and find out about your family’s cardiac history.

You and your loved should visit the website of the American Heart Association which has resources for everything from losing weight and stopping smoking to starting an exercise program and managing stress. Call them with your questions at 888-MY-HEART. Ladies can click on for female friendly advice.

Contact Us: Recovering from a heart attack or helping a loved one recover can be complicated. Both hard physical and emotional work is needed over time. Changes in diet, routine, and medications may be required. Keep in mind that Regal has caregivers, clinicians and care managers that can be of assistance after hospital discharge for as long (or as little) as you need us, to get you or a loved one back on your feet. Contact Ferial Andre, RN, CCN, CDP, at 888-499-8382 or

This article is not intended as medical advice.