Heart Attack!

by David Skolnick MD

A heart attack occurs when the oxygen supply to the heart muscle is lacking or impaired. This lack of oxygen causes damage to the heart muscle and makes that portion of heart muscle non-functional. Depending on the percentage of muscle involvement, one can have a mild heart attack or a very severe heart attack leading to death.

Once a myocardial infarction (heart attack) has occurred, there are some treatment modalities that can be life saving providing the patient realizes that he/she is having a myocardial infarction. Early intervention via clot busters or angioplasty can be life saving. If you are experiencing chest pain donít hesitate to seek medical attention immediately. Realize however, that once you are having a myocardial infarction your treatment modalities are out of your hands and in those of your physician or cardiologist.

So what can you do to help yourself?

There are five (5) major risk factors for heart disease. Four of these five factors you have control over. This control enables you to significantly alter your risk of having a heart attack. The five risk factors are:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Diabetes

It is only family history that you canít change or modify. Each one of the remaining four risk factors can be controlled. One must realize that each factor separately is a risk for heart disease and that the more factors one has the more likely that person will have significant heart disease.

Hypertension and elevated cholesterol (hypercholesterol-emia) can easily be controlled with proper diet, exercise and at times with oral medications. Diabetics should make every effort to maintain their glucose level (sugar level) within the accepted normal range. This will require strict adherence to a diabetic diet, proper exercise and at times the use of oral and/or injectible medications. In these three cases periodic medical evaluations are needed to assure that the treatment modalities are effective.

Smoking is not only a risk factor for heart disease but is also a risk for lung cancer, emphysema and peripheral vascular disease and premature labor in pregnant mothers. Smoking is an addictive habit that must be broken and today there are several therapies to assist the cessation of smoking. In spite of these different modalities available, the individual who smokes has to want to quit. No modality is going to work if the smoker doesnít have the will power to overcome this habit.

So remember, if you donít smoke — donít start; and if you do smoke — quit. You will be helping your heart survive as well as reducing your risk for lung cancer, emphysema, peripheral vascular disease and other associated pathologies related to smoking.

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