- The heart muscle is supplied by the coronary arteries and blockage of these arteries by plaque leads to a heart attack.
A heart attack is serious medical emergency which occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart reduces or stops, causing damage to the heart muscle.
The heart muscle is supplied by the coronary arteries and blockage of these arteries by plaque leads to a heart attack.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 17.5 million people die from heart disease worldwide and 80 per cent of them are caused by heart attacks and strokes.
Coronary heart disease causes more than 11,000 deaths a year and is the fourth most common cause of death in Tanzania.
Heart diseases are more common in men than in women.
A variety of things can cause heart attacks ranging from unmodifiable factors like age, family history and gender to modifiable factors like lifestyle and diet.
The most common risk factors for heart attacks include old age, cigarette smoking, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Other risk factors include male sex, lack of physical activity, a family history of heart disease, alcohol use and obesity.
Smoking is regarded as the most common cause responsible for around 36 per cent of heart diseases cases followed by obesity which is responsible for close to 20 per cent of heart diseases.
Less common causes include low socioeconomic status and chronic high stress levels, so make sure you always keep your stress levels in check.
The most common symptom of a heart attack is usually chest pain.
Most patients describe the pain as a sensation of tightness, squeezing or pressure. This pain, in most cases, radiates to the left arm but may also be felt in the lower jaw, neck, back, right arm and shoulder.
The pain often lasts for more than 20 minutes.
Other symptoms of heart attacks include sweating, fainting, nausea and vomiting. Most women report shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness as their symptoms.
Lesser common symptoms of heart attacks include palpitations and abnormal heart rate and blood pressure. The sooner you recognise the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and seek help, the better.
There are major changes one can make to their lifestyle in order to avoid being a victim of heart attacks. Such as:
• Physical activity including sports like football and gym sessions can greatly reduce your chances of having a heart attack.
• Maintaining a healthy balanced diet and refraining from smoking and excessive alcohol use also greatly reduce your risk for heart disease.
• Dietary changes such as substituting olive oil in place of normal cooking oil, reducing sugar consumption and regular adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables.
• There are various medication which lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. These drugs should never be self prescribed but should rather be prescribed by a medical professional.
The author is a medical student at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University.