Heart attack: Do you know the warning signs?

Heart attack warning signs

Every year in Australia around 55,000 Australians suffer a heart attack. That’s one heart attack every 10 minutes. Sadly, 9,000 of these result in death. That equates to one life every hour, or 24 Australians each day.

However, the earlier you seek treatment the less damage will be done to your heart. The key is to call for help as soon as you notice any warning signs, rather than wait for it to happen.

What is a heart attack?

Our heart is a muscle, requiring a good blood supply to keep it healthy. Blood is supplied to the heart through arteries. Healthy arteries have smooth inner walls that allow the blood to flow freely. Over time, our arteries can become damaged and blocked by fatty materials, called plaque.

When plaque breaks off these walls, blood cells and other parts of blood stick to the damaged area and form blood clots. When an artery completely bocks off the flow of blood or seriously reduces blood flow, a heart attack occurs.

As a result, part of the heart muscle begins to die. The longer the blockage is left untreated, the more muscle dies. If blood flow is not restored quickly, damage to the heart is permanent and the patient dies.

What are the warning signs of heart attack

Most people believe chest pain and discomfort are the only warning signs of a heart attack. While they are common symptoms, not everyone will experience chest pain at all. Some people will experience only mild chest pain or discomfort, and others may experience one symptom or a combination of symptoms. Because symptoms vary for everyone, it pays to know what to look for.

It is common to experience pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in your:

  • Jaw — You may notice discomfort in and around the lower jaw on either one or both sides, or it can spread from your chest to your jaw.
  • Neck — You may feel general discomfort in your neck, or a choking or burning feeling in your throat. The pain may spread from your chest or shoulders to your neck.
  • Shoulders — You may experience a general ache, heaviness or pressure which spreads from chest to shoulder(s).
  • Chest — You may feel heaviness, tightness, pressure or a crushing sensation in the centre of your chest. It may be mild or sever and it could make you feel generally unwell.
  • Note: Sharp and stabbing chest pain is generally less associated with having a heart attack.
  • Back — You may feel a dull ache in between your shoulder blades, which can spread from your chest to your back.
  • Arms — You may experience discomfort, pain, heaviness, numbness, tingling or uselessness in one or both arms. This feeling may spread from your chest to your arm(s).

Heart attack warning signsWhile you are experiencing symptoms, you may also:

  • feel nauseous or generally unwell
  • become dizzy or light-headed
  • break out in a cold sweat
  • feel short of breath or have difficulty breathing

Women are more likely to experience non-chest pain symptoms of a heart attack than men, so it’s important you know the signs.

What should you do if you notice warning signs?

If you experience any of the warning signs above, call triple zero (000) immediately. Don’t hang up but ask the operator for an ambulance. Many people die from heart attack as they wait too long to seek treatment.

Treatment begins the moment you make the call. The operator may provide you with advice that might just save your life. And paramedics are trained to treat you as soon as they arrive.

And if it turns out to be a false alarm, then be thankful. Don’t put off calling in case it is a false alarm and you’ll feel embarrassed.

What can you do to reduce your risk of heart attack?

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to reduce your risk of having a heart attack. This includes:

  • quitting smoking if you are a smoker
  • managing your blood pressure and blood cholesterol
  • managing diabetes if you have it
  • engaging in regular, moderate exercise on most days of the week
  • achieving and maintain a healthy weight
  • following a healthy diet, taking care to eat from a wide range of food groups
  • reducing stress in your life and seek treatment for depression.

Remember, you only have one heart so make sure you take care of it. The best way to do that, is to live a healthy lifestyle.

If you are concerned about your risk for heart disease or heart attack, be sure to speak to your doctor.

Further information

Heart Foundation

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Exercise your way to a healthy heart

Exercise for a healthy heartAccording to statistics, every 26 minutes, an Australian loses their life to heart disease. That’s 55 Australians every day or around 20,046 people a year.

Heart disease — also known as Ischaemic heart disease (IHD), coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD) refers to an inadequate supply of blood flowing to the heart.

This is a serious condition which can lead to angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.

Arteries which take blood to the heart can become blocked with a build-up of deposits such as cholesterol, fibrous tissue and calcification. These deposits harden and cause the arteries to narrow. This process is called atherosclerosis.

The good news is that YOU can do a lot to protect the health of your heart. One of the most important is getting regular exercise.

How exercise helps your heart

According to the Heart Foundation, regular exercise is important for:

  • preventing heart disease
  • reducing your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke
  • rehabilitation after a heart attack
  • reducing stress, depression and anxiety, which are risk factors for heart disease
  • weight control (overweight and obesity are risks for heart disease).

How much exercise?

The Heart Foundation recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. This can be in 30-minute blocks or even three 10-minute blocks. The aim should be to build up to a total of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity activity every week.

Exercise for a healthy heartWhat type of exercise?

All physical activity is great, but for heart health, moderate activity is recommended. Moderate intensity will cause you to feel warmer (maybe even sweat), breathe harder and raise your heart rate. However, you should still be able to talk.

Some great ideas for activity include walking, tennis, dancing, gardening, cycling, swimming, team sports and even housework and work around the yard.

However, if you have a health problem or have not exercised for a while, it’s wise to get the all-clear from your GP before embarking on a program.

So get up off the couch and get your heart pumping for good health.

Further information

Heart Foundation

Take care of your heart this Valentine’s Day

heart berriesThis Saturday, 14th February is not only a day for hearts to express their love — it is a day when Heart Research Australia focuses their energy on keeping hearts beating.

Coinciding with Heart Research Month, this national day of action is designed to bring attention to heart disease — one of Australia’s biggest killers.

According to statistics, every 26 minutes, an Australian loses their life to heart disease. That’s 55 Australians every day or around 20,046 people a year.

Funds raised through Heart Research Month will be directed to support research projects that investigate treatments for heart disease and medical conditions. It is hoped that initial research will lead to improved clinical practices in all hospitals around Australia.

Heart disease — also known as Ischaemic heart disease (IHD), coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease (CAD) refers to an inadequate supply of blood flowing to the heart. This is a serious condition which can lead to angina (chest pain) or a heart attack.

Arteries which take blood to the heart can become blocked with a build-up of deposits such as cholesterol, fibrous tissue and calcification. These deposits harden and cause the arteries to narrow. This process is called atherosclerosis.

The good news is that YOU can do a lot to protect the health of your heart and reduce the risk of heart disease. For example: Lose excess fat

  • Manage your diabetes if you have it
  • Quit smoking if you are a smoker
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days of the week
  • Reduce stress in your life.

You should also have regular heart checks with your doctor, particularly if there is a family history of heart disease.

So this Valentine’s Day, when you remember your loved one, remember your heart as well, and make a donation to this life-saving research.

Visit http://www.heartresearch.com.au/donate/ to find out how your donation can make a difference.

Health checks that may save a woman’s life

female doctorLet’s face it, we all live busy lives. Sometimes a visit to your doctor for a check-up seems like more trouble than it’s worth, especially when you are juggling so many other things.

However, a regular check-up could just save your life.

Here are some of the most common screening tests that can make a difference to women’s health.

Breast screening

Early detection of breast cancer greatly increases the chances for successful treatment. Breast cancer can be detected by a clinical breast examination and mammography screening.

Women in Australia with no breast symptoms, aged between 50 and 69 are eligible to participate in BreastScreen Australia’s free breast cancer screening program. Every two years, women in this age group are recalled to have a screening mammogram. Women aged 40-49 are also welcome to attend, but they do not receive a two-yearly reminder.

Talk to your health practitioner about which method of screening is best for you.

Cervical screening

Regular Pap smears help protect against cervical cancer. This type of cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers, as long as it’s detected early, so it’s important to have them, as unpleasant as they are. It is recommended that women over 18 who have ever had sex should have a Pap smear every two years. Regular cervical screening can prevent the most common form of cervical cancer in 90 per cent of cases.

Cholesterol and blood pressure

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer for Australian women? Cholesterol and blood pressure levels are important risk factors for heart disease and stroke. If you are over the age of 40, you should have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly. Talk to your general practitioner how often you need to be tested, but the general recommendation is once a year.

Bone density testing

Osteoporosis is characterised by a thinning of the bones causing them to fracture or break easily. While both men and women are at risk of developing the disease, women are more at risk after reaching menopause. This is because of lower levels of oestrogen. Bone density testing can identify osteoporosis.

Before heading off for a bone density test, your doctor will review any risk factors you may have for osteoporosis, and any other diseases or medications that may impact negatively upon the health of your bones.

Next time you visit your doctor, make sure you discuss your bone health.

Bowel screening (Colorectal cancer screening)

Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers for Australians over 50 years of age. Around 80 Australians die of the disease each week. A faecal occult blood test (FOBT) detects tiny amounts of blood (often released from cancers or pre-cancers) in the stool.

Women with no family history of the disease should be screened every two years, after the age of 50. If there is a family history of bowel cancer, seek the advice of your general practitioner.

So don’t put off that check-up any longer. Invest the time in looking after your health. You are worth it.

Further information:

BreastScreen Australia Program

National Cervical Screening Program

Osteoporosis Australia

The Heart Foundation

National Bowel Cancer Screening Program

The dangers of being too fat

When it comes to excess weight, science has proven that carrying too much body fat puts your life at risk.

fat man

Whether you call it your spare tyre, muffin top, bingo wings or beer gut, if you carry too much body fat, you are not healthy.

This week (17 – 23 February), is Australia’s Healthy Weight Week, an initiative of the Dietitians Association of Australia. The week aims to raise awareness of the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australia has been steadily rising for the past 30 years. The latest statistics from the National Health and Medical Research Council indicate that around 60 per cent of Australian adults are classified as overweight or obese and more than 25 per cent of these fell into the obese category.

More worrying, the obesity rates of children are also increasing with around 25 per cent of children aged 5 – 17 years, classified as overweight or obese, with 6 per cent of them being obese.

These are the cold, hard facts. As a nation, we are becoming fatter and unhealthier every year.

Why is being overweight dangerous

Being overweight can lead to:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal problems including osteoarthritis and back pain
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Gallstones
  • Infertility.

Even if you currently don’t exhibit signs of any of the above, if you are overweight, you are setting yourself up to develop them later on, leading to a premature death.

Regardless of whether you are ‘comfortable in your skin’ or not, if you carry too much fat, you need to do something about it.

Good nutrition and adequate levels of activity play an important role in losing excess fat and maintaining a healthy weight.

So if you want to win the battle of the bulge and not be another statistic, speak to your doctor today about ways in which you can be on the path to a healthy weight and a healthy life.

You may also like to visit http://www.healthyweightweek.com.au/ for some advice and tips on how to get started, including a FREE downloadable cookbook.

RedFeb – get behind heart research

Never heard of RedFeb?

RedFeb is a fun and active way to support Heart Research Australia’s Heart Research Month which is held in February.

Heart disease affects around 1.4 million Australians and kills around 21,500 Australians each year. That’s one Australian every 24 minutes.

Heart Research Australia raises funds for research into the treatment and prevention of heart disease.

This February, Heart Research Australia wants you to be involved in their fundraising efforts by participating in the 2014 RedFeb relay.

Everyone who registers to participate in the Relay will contribute the kilometres they clock up either through their physical activity (e.g walking, running, cycling or swimming). It is hoped that the combined kilometres of Australians will equal 27,650km — which is the equivalent to one lap around Australia.

Physical inactivity is one of the greatest risk factors for heart disease, so along with raising funds, you will be doing your heart a favour.

So, if you want to get behind this great cause or find out more information, visit http://www.redfebrelay.com.au/ today.