Necessary safeguards to keep your heart healthy

A heart attack is due to part of the heart not receiving sufficient blood.

The heart is made almost entirely of muscle, but it cannot obtain the necessary oxygen and other vital elements from the blood within it, because the chambers of the heart are lined with an impervious membrane, and there are no fine blood vessels leading into the heart muscle from the chambers.

All the blood to keep the heart alive and well, passes through three small arteries that circle around the heart, and send small vessels into the muscle. If one of these arteries is blocked, one part of the heart muscle cannot obtain sufficient blood, and dies. This is a heart attack, or myocardial infarction.

If you put a tight rubber band around your finger, you cut off the finger's blood supply. It rapidly becomes painful, and would eventually wither and die. The same thing happens in the heart, but more rapidly, because the heart must keep working hard with every beat, while your finger is at rest.

The arteries of the heart can be blocked by fatty deposits that build up in the arteries because the patient is overweight, or has high cholesterol levels; by clots or fat globules breaking off from damaged blood vessels elsewhere in the body and blocking an artery; or by damage to the artery from many years of high blood pressure.

When the heart attack occurs, the patient feels a severe crushing pain in the chest, and shortness of breath. Most seek medical aid rapidly because of the severity of the symptoms, and this is vital, because doctors can give medications by injection that stabilize the heart, and prevent it from stopping completely.

Once you are under the care of a doctor, your chances of survival are good, because of the many medications and treatments available to stop abnormal heartbeats, which are the normal cause of death in a heart attack.

If you feel that you, or someone with you, is having a heart attack, call an ambulance and your general practitioner.

Once in hospital, you will be kept in a coronary care ward under the constant eye of specially trained nurses and doctors, who can deal with any further deterioration in your heart instantly. ambulance and your general practitioner.

After a few days, you will be allowed to rest in a normal ward, while the heart heals. Then after 10 to 14 days, you can go home for a further six or more weeks rest.

The secret of recovery lies in gradually increasing levels of exercise over many weeks, to slowly strengthen the heart. Manual workers can often return to their jobs after a couple of months, and provided they look after their general health, most heart attack victims will lead a normal and full life.

Many patients are now given drugs to prevent further heart attacks, and these may be continued for a few years, or for life. It is also necessary to have regular check-ups by your general practitioner, to ensure that you, and your heart, remain in peak condition.

The main things that YOU can do to prevent a heart attack are to keep your weight within reasonable limits, have your blood pressure checked and treated if necessary, avoid excess cholesterol in your diet, exercise regularly, and stop smoking.

Smokers are at a far higher risk than others in the community, because nicotine can cause spasm of the arteries in the heart.

Learn to prevent heart disease with a cardiac diet: cardiac diet for heart patients

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