Deepak Chopra, MDHealth Blog - Wellness

Weekly Health Tip: It is Heart Health Month!

Published on 2011-02-07 by Deepak Chopra, MD

Chances are, you will never have a heart attack. If you know your family history of heart disease, keep track of your blood pressure, and stick to healthful habits, your miraculous cardiovascular system should sustain you through a long, productive life. But there's always the possibility that you or someone close to you will feel the early warning signs of a heart attack. Being able to identify those signs and take the right action immediately could save a life. During a heart attack, a blockage in the arteries starves the heart of the oxygen it needs to do its job. Left untreated for too long, the heart muscle begins to break down, sometimes suffering permanent damage and eventually causing death. But men and women can feel dramatically different symptoms when a heart attack begins. Women are more likely than men to have undetected “silent” heart attacks, that may involve nausea, fatigue and pain in the arm, back or jaw. Men are more likely to experience severe chest pain and heart pounding. Because women's symptoms are more subtle and distinct from men's symptoms, those who have heart attacks are less likely to get a prompt diagnosis and seek treatment. Some wait to see if their symptoms improve, sometimes for hours after the first twinge of discomfort. There is no upside in waiting out the early warning signs.

The best heart-attack prevention plan is to gauge your heart health now, while you are symptom-free. Keep track of your blood pressure. If it is higher than normal, ask your physician for advice on altering your diet and activity level. Avoiding high fat foods, steering clear of cigarette smoke and staying active will help you maintain good heart health. If you do feel unexplained pain or numbness in your chest, back, arm or neck, or sudden fatigue or nausea, don't ignore these symptoms. Get medical help right away. A doctor or emergency medical staffer may give you an electrocardiogram, to graph the electrical activity in your heart, and search for abnormalities. You may also be given a blood test, which checks for certain enzymes present in the blood stream after a heart attack begins. If you are having a heart attack, clot-dissolving drugs or other artery opening procedures will work best immediately after the attack. Speedy treatment will increase your chance of survival, reduce the amount of damage to your heart muscle, and aid your recovery. Seeking medical help immediately is the only option, even if the episode turns out to be a false alarm.

Learn more about keeping track of your heart health: Baseline Your Health

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.