Heart Attack Archive

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Get FITT to better fight heart disease

If you've been diagnosed with heart disease, the FITT approach can reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke.

About half of all Americans have at least one of the key risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and excess weight.

You can address those risks with a heart-healthy diet and medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But perhaps the biggest boost you can give your heart is regular aerobic exercise.

Artificially sweetened drinks: No heart health advantage?

Research we're watching

Think you're doing your heart a favor by drinking diet instead of regular soda? That may be wishful thinking, according to a research letter published Nov. 3, 2020, in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers studied nearly 105,000 people who filled out three 24-hour dietary recall surveys every six months. During a 10-year follow-up, researchers tracked the participants' cardiovascular health.

Telemonitoring tied to fewer heart attacks, lower medical costs

News briefs

If your doctor or pharmacist offers a service to monitor blood pressure measurements you send from home (called telemonitoring), consider taking advantage of it. Past research has shown that telemonitoring — often paid for by Medicare — may help you reduce your blood pressure. And a study published online Aug. 31, 2020, by Hypertension suggests telemonitoring is also associated with a long-term reduction in heart attacks, strokes, and medical costs. The recent study is a follow-up to a randomized controlled trial from 2013 that divided 450 people into two groups: those who received routine primary care, and those who received a year of telemonitoring services with a pharmacist who helped manage their treatment. People in the telemonitoring group had lower blood pressure for up to two years afterward, compared with people who received routine care. In the recently published follow-up, which followed the same participants for five years, researchers found there were about half as many heart attacks, strokes, and hospitalizations in the telemonitoring group as there were in the group that received routine care. Because there were fewer cardiovascular problems, people in the telemonitoring group also saved an estimated $1,900 each in medical costs.

Resuming sex within months of a heart attack linked to longer survival

Research we're watching

Couples sometimes worry about restarting sexual activity after one partner has had a heart attack. But a new study has found that returning to usual levels of sexual activity within a few months of a heart attack is linked to improved survival.

The study, published online Sept. 23, 2020, by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, included 495 sexually active people who were hospitalized for a first heart attack in 1992 or 1993. All of them were 65 or younger (the average age was 53) and 90% were men.

Fish oil drug helps shrink plaque in heart arteries

Research we're watching

A drug made from a highly purified form of EPA (an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish) appears to help reduce plaque in the heart's arteries, according to a study published online Aug. 29, 2020, by the European Heart Journal. The findings may explain why the drug, icosapent ethyl (Vascepa), lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke by 26% in people at high risk for those serious problems.

The study included 80 people with fatty plaque in the arteries of the heart (coronary artery disease). Most of them had diabetes and were taking a statin. Their trigly­cerides were elevated, ranging from 135 to 499 milligrams per deciliter. Half were randomly assigned to take 4 grams of icosapent ethyl daily; the other half received a placebo.

The danger of “silent” heart attacks

About half of all heart attacks are mistaken for less serious problems and can increase your risk of dying from coronary artery disease.


 Image: goir/Getty Images

You can have a heart attack and not even know it. A silent heart attack, known as a silent myocardial infarction (SMI), account for 45% of heart attacks and strike men more than women.

They are described as "silent" because when they occur, their symptoms lack the intensity of a classic heart attack, such as extreme chest pain and pressure; stabbing pain in the arm, neck, or jaw; sudden shortness of breath; sweating, and dizziness.

Do you know the signs of a silent heart attack?

As many as half of all heart attacks go unrecognized — and their long-term consequences can be serious.


 Image: © hidesy/Getty Images

 

Most people don't realize that they could have a heart attack without even knowing it. Although these are commonly referred to as "silent" heart attacks, a more accurate term may be "unrecognized" heart attack, says cardiologist Dr. David Morrow, director of the cardiac intensive care unit at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"Some people do have symptoms, so in that sense, their heart attack is not silent. They just don't recognize the sensations as coming from their heart," he explains. They may think it's just indigestion or muscle pain, when the real cause is actually reduced blood flow to the heart. People may also experience other atypical symptoms, such as nausea or excessive sweating during a heart attack (see "Heart attack symptoms").

How does inflammation increase the risk for heart attacks?

Ask the doctor

Q. My doctor says I'm at risk for a heart attack because a test shows inflammation. I know about high cholesterol and blood pressure, but how does inflammation increase the risk for heart attacks?

A. I can understand why you're puzzled. In medical school I learned that there is a simple road to a heart attack. First, cholesterol starts building up in the wall of a coronary artery carrying blood to the heart muscle. Over many years, the plaque of cholesterol slowly grows bigger. When it grows large enough that the heart can't get the blood it needs to work hard, the heart cries out in pain — chest pain, a condition called angina. Finally, when the plaque grows large enough, it blocks the flow of blood completely, causing a heart attack. It was a beautifully simple explanation.

Does aspirin stop a heart attack?

Ask the doctor

Q. Should I take aspirin if I think I'm having a heart attack, and what kind of aspirin should I take?

A. First, what symptoms indicate you might be having a heart attack? The main symptom is a squeezing, tight sensation in the middle of the chest that can travel up into the jaw and shoulders, and even down the left arm. Along with the pain you may begin to sweat and to feel weak, like you might pass out, and be short of breath. While other conditions besides a heart at-tack can cause similar symptoms, you need to take such symptoms very seriously. First, call 911.

Does "cough CPR" work?

Ask the doctor


 Image: © Duckycards/Getty Images

Q. A friend of mine shared a Facebook post about how to survive a heart attack when you're alone. It says that you should cough very forcefully every few seconds until help arrives. Can that actually help?

A. This "advice" has been circulating around the Internet for nearly 20 years. I was reluctant to even address this question out of concern for perpetuating the idea of "cough CPR" or causing undue worry. However, I think it's important to clear up the confusion around this topic.

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