Understanding How to Reduce the Risk for Heart Attack
As a cardiologist practicing at the Orange County Heart Institute and St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, my mission is to positively impact heart health and quality of life for people, not only in my community, but around the globe. Nothing is more satisfying than helping a patient with education, prevention and treatment of complex heart problems. When patients learn about the intricacies of the heart, it helps them better understand how they can prevent heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and blood clots.
Being informed of the pros and cons of procedures related to the heart, including coronary artery calcium scoring, angiogram, bypass heart surgery and pacemakers helps patients make more informed decisions.
This article is aimed at educating patients about myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the heart. But, how and when does this happen?
A heart attack strikes someone about every 40 seconds. It occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because the arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow from a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries caused by fat and cholesterol. Plaques can become vulnerable through a biological process of inflamation and rupture. Plaque rupture leads to the formation of blood clots made up of platelets and red blood cells that block the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood. If the heart does not get enough oxygen-rich blood, part of the heart will die in what is called an infarct.
Heart Attacks in Women vs. Men
As with men, the most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. When a man has a heart attack, he may gasp, clutch his chest, and fall to the ground because of the heavy chest pressure. However, women may instead experience shortness of breath, upper abdomen pain, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting.
Modifiable Risk Factors to Prevent Heart Disease
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to reduce cardiovascular health risks. These are some of the risk factors that can be modified with a few guidelines and discipline:
Maintaining the heart is a complex, yet essential process that involves nutrition, exercise and emotional wellbeing. All these contribute to nurturing of the heart and prevention of coronary artery disease (CAD).
Knowing that weight loss significantly mitigates the risk for CAD, my personal mission is to help patients take control of their heart health by helping them understand the healthiest methods, including holistic medicine, and keeping them out of the surgical suite. My passion for saving lives and my belief in using the most natural and least invasive solutions first, has led me to innovate and learn about alternatives that promote heart health.
A regimen of B vitamins, magnesium supplements, CoQ10 and omega-3 fatty acids, soy protein, soluble fiber and even certain natural herbs, can strengthen the heart, while promoting weight loss and reducing the risk of an acute coronary event.
Often, patients who are obese also have high cholesterol. Again, diet and exercise cannot be emphasized more in preventing stroke or cardiac arrest. Unhealthy fats (trans and saturated) must be replaced with healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). In addition, the National Institutes of Health recommends the use of 2 grams a day of plant sterols or stanols for enhancing LDL-lowering treatment plans. Plant sterols and stanols (also referred to as phytosterols) are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. These can help bring cholesterol levels down by reducing intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Because phytosterols are structurally similar to the body’s cholesterol, when they are consumed they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. As a result, cholesterol absorption is blocked and blood cholesterol levels are reduced.
Nutrition is a smart path that is often neglected as a sound treatment for the heart, the center of harmony in the body. I encourage everyone to take the time to understand this incredible organ, which deserves the proper nutrients and care required to keep a body and soul healthy. Please, of course, consult with your cardiologist before you seek out a quick weight loss solution that may compromise your most vital organ.
About the Author: Brian Kolski, M.D., FACC, director, Orange County Heart Institute (OCHI) noninvasive vascular lab, is board certified in interventional cardiology and cardiovascular diseases. Kolski is a nationally recognized faculty member of the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions (SCAI). He is the director of structural heart disease at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, where he helped start the transcatheter valve program and participates in every case. Previously, Kolski started a very busy and successful vascular and limb salvage program in his previous position in Salt Lake City, Utah. He travels throughout the United States in educating physicians on vascular techniques, as well as complex high-risk (and indicated) patients (CHIP). Kolski is also involved as team cardiologist for the Anaheim Ducks professional hockey organization.
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