Difference between Heart attack / Cardiac Arrest / Stroke:
- Heart Attack: Damage to heart muscle caused by a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart. Usually does not result in instant death.
- Cardiac Arrest: Heart stops pumping blood when its electrical system malfunctions and suddenly stops beating. Death may occur instantly.
- Stroke: Occurs when an artery to the brain bursts or gets clogged, cutting off oxygen supply to a part of the brain.
- Signs of Heart Attack:
- Chest discomfort: If you experience chest pain in the centre of chest that lasts more than 5 minutes. Irregular heart rate, palpitation, nervousness.
- Upper body parts discomfort: Severe pain in left arm, shoulder, lower jaw or neck accompanied by pressure or squeezing feeling in your chest.
- Breathlessness: Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort, extreme sweating.
- Stroke: Sudden numbness on the face, arm or leg along with difficulty in talking or understanding speech. Sudden severe headache or loss of vision particularly in only one eye.
- Cardiac Arrest: Irregular heartbeat occurs suddenly and often without warning. Seconds later, the person is unconscious and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.
- Left arm pain: If the pain starts at the left chest moves upward to the shoulder and radiates down the left arm, then also there is a strong possibility the arm pain is heart related.
- Easy Check: If you can walk 2 km and climb 2 floors of stairs daily without any problem AND if your cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes is under control, then chances of you getting a heart attack in next 5 years are less.
When to see a doctor (Cardiologist):
- For cardiac arrest cases, perform CPR(mouth to mouth rescue breathing and chest compressions) immediately until help arrives. Check video in the 'treatment' section below.
- If you experience the above symptoms, don't wait for more than 5 minutes and seek medical help immediately.
- If you feel someone is having a heart attack, give him 1 tablet of 'Disprin/Asprin' immediately.
- A tablet of 'Nitroglycerine' should be placed under the tongue for pain relief. Rush to the hospital as the first hour is really critical and timely action can save a person.
- For cardiac arrest cases, you can substantially increase the survival chances by performing Hands-Only CPR. Check easy steps in this important video: Click here
- Aspirin to prevent further blood clotting.
- Anti-platelet and Anti-coagulant medications - prevent formation & growth of blood clots in arteries.
- If medicines don’t help, Angioplasty (Balloon, Laser or Stenting) will be done to open arteries and improve the blood flow.
- For severe/multiple blocked arteries, bypass surgery is done to provide a new route for blood to flow from the arteries to the heart.
- Differences between 'Angioplasty Stent' and 'Heart Bypass' surgeries:
- Angioplasty with stent placement requires a small nick in the groin, local anesthesia, an overnight hospital stay, and a relatively rapid recovery. The blocked arteries are cleaned out and a wire-mesh tube(stent) is placed in the artery to help keep it open, allowing blood to flow freely through the heart again.
- In comparison, bypass surgery requires opening the chest, general anesthesia, several-days stay at hospital and weeks of sometimes painful recovery. During coronary artery bypass grafting surgery, a vein from the leg or chest is stitched to the artery, before and after the blockage. This vein serves as a side street for the blood to flow around the blocked artery.
- Angioplasty is the first choice for non serious cases. It is quick(takes only about an hour), relatively painless, patient can go home in 2 days and get back to work in a week. A number of large studies show that survival after angioplasty is as good as after bypass surgery.
- On the other hand, a bypass surgery requires about 4 hours and it involves operating when the heart is stopped and is stabilized with a pump. Patient is usually discharged in 7 to 10 days and can get back to work only after 2 to 3 months.
Tests for detection:
- Routine screening 'Treadmill test' detects heart disease after arteries start getting clogged. 'Carotid Ultrasound'- is another cheap test which helps predict risk of heart attack.
- In case of chest pain, immediate ECG or Electrocardiogram is done to detect any heart irregularity.
- Blood test to detect enzyme levels in the blood.
- In case of a stroke, a CT or MRI scan can highlight the area and extent of brain damage.
- Nuclear scan may be done to study the pumping action of the heart.
- Angiography to check for blockages in heart vessels.
- People with Diabetes and High Cholesterol are at a higher risk of having a heart attack/stroke.
- A heart attack/stroke may happen suddenly but it often occurs after years of slow buildup of fatty deposits inside the blood vessels.
- Obesity (BMI of more than 30) is another major cause. To check your BMI according to your height: Click here.
- Bleeding into the brain from an injury can also cause a 'stroke'.
- Lack of physical activity, sedentary lifestyle. Physical/Emotional stress, age and genetic factors.
- Excessive alcohol, Smoking.
Is it contagious:
- Heart attack or Cardiac arrest is not contagious.
- Family history or hereditary causes may increase the chances of heart attack.
How to prevent it:
- Aggressive lowering of bad cholesterol LDL blood level to below 100 can open up blocked coronary arteries partially. A daily slice of watermelon is known to protect from heart disease as it helps lower LDL.
- Exercise reduces blood pressure and increases HDL (good cholesterol). Exercise reduces the chances of heart attack and if you do have a heart attack, it is likely that it will be less severe. Reduce stress. Yoga/Pranayam really helps. If you take alcohol, do so only in moderation.
- After completely avoiding smoking, the risk of heart attack decreases within a few weeks. The risk goes down to that of a nonsmoker level within about 2 to 3 years. Ideally, avoid smoking at any stage of life.
- If you have a family history of heart disease, get your blood cholesterol level and blood pressure checked annually after the age of 21.
- Follow a low-fat diet with vegetables, fruits (grapes, apple, pomegranate) and take food rich in Vitamin E.
- Being overweight decreases HDL (good cholesterol). So maintain a healthy proper weight. To check what your ideal weight should be based on your height: Click here
- Take ginger, garlic cloves/capsules and green tea daily.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of tulsi juice and 1 teaspoon of honey and take it every morning.
- Take a low-dose of aspirin daily after consulting a doctor. Studies have shown this helps prevent heart diseases.
- Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes. Treat high blood pressure. For details: Click here