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(hemorrhage) or gets clogged, cutting off oxygen supply to a part of the brain due to which brain cells start dying and body movements controlled by that part of the brain get affected.
- 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 and persistent vomiting.
- 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) is 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