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Since the advent of the internet and Google, most people deem themselves medical experts. From a mild flu to a more serious chronic disease like Kawasaki’s Disease, a quick tap-tap-tap on your keyboard and you have years’ worth of research at your fingertips. While the availability of information on the internet has brought a lot of good to the world, much of this kind of knowledge sadly needs to be taken with a grain of salt – especially if you aren’t in a medical profession or study a medical degree.
One of the more common “uneducated” mistakes people make is this: Thinking heart attack and cardiac arrest are the same.
While you will often hear these words together (often mistakenly in exchange for the other), they are two very different things. Heart attack can cause cardiac arrest. That means that a heart attack is a precedent event and a cardiac arrest is the result. These two terms belong in a causational relationship; they do not equal the other.
Heart attack = myocardial infarction
The correct medical term for a heart attack is a myocardial infarction or MI. An MI happens when the blood (and therefore the oxygen) supply to the cardiac muscle (called the “myocardium”) is suddenly cut off. This is usually caused by a blockage of fatty deposits called plaque or a sudden bleed. Poor diet and exercise can cause a buildup of fat and cells in the blood vessels that supply the heart with blood. When the blockage becomes too big, it can cause a bleed; the same way a bleed can happen if blood pressure becomes too high and ruptures these delicate blood vessels.
Myocardial infarction –> cardiac arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest or SCA is an event wherein the heart stops beating completely. A person who has experienced an SCA has no palpable pulse and is unresponsive. They may be breathing abnormally or not at all. The start of cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR and advanced life support (if the SCA occurred in a hospital or a medical set up) are needed in this scenario. MIs do not always lead to cardiac arrest, but the statistics are high enough to warrant immediate medical attention once the warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack are felt. With more than half a million SCAs in 2013 (and roughly 350,000 of those outside of a hospital), it pays to be vigilant. You need to watch out for these signs and symptoms if you have a preexisting cardiac condition (or even if you have never been diagnosed with any sort of health problem): – Chest discomfort. The key word here is discomfort. Don’t wait for 10 out of 10 on the pain scale before you visit your doctor. If you start feeling pressure or twinges in or around your chest area, be sure to seek medical attention. – Shortness of breath. When you feel like catching your breath even after mild physical activity like walking up a flight of stairs or taking a short walk in the park, you may have a mild heart condition. – Other typical signs and symptoms include cold sweats, nausea, and lightheadedness.
Fight your risk for heart disease.
We may blame our genes for bad skin and hair, short(er) height that we might like, and predilection for various diseases, but when it comes to heart disease, our own lifestyle choices play a very big role. What we eat, what kind of (or lack thereof) exercise we do, and what hobbies we like to partake in all contribute to our risk for a heart condition.
– Keep the salt and fat at a minimum. Food that is salted and deep-fried should be avoided if you want to keep your blood vessels plaque-free.
– Engage in mild to moderate exercise at least three times a week for thirty minutes; that involves jogging,walking, or cycling – take your pick.
– Eat a lot of vegetables and fruit. Veggies and fruits have a lot of vitamins and minerals that boost our immune system and improve our body’s natural balance.
– Don’t smoke; and drink in moderation. Smoking – specifically the tar and nicotine in cigarettes – damage our blood vessels, making them prone to plaque deposition and subsequent rupture. Drinking alcohol damages our liver and causes toxins to build up in the blood, which can damage the heart.
 American Heart Association. Warning Signs of a Heart Attack. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Warning-Signs-of-a-Heart-Attack_UCM_002039_Article.jsp#.VqDlUCp97IV
 American Heart Association. Cardiac Arrest Statistics. http://cpr.heart.org/AHAECC/CPRAndECC/General/UCM_477263_Cardiac-Arrest-Statistics.jsp
 Lavie, C., O’Keefe, J. & Sallis, R. (2015). Exercise and the heart–the harm of too little and too much. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25757005
 Folson, A., et. al. (2015). American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7: Avoiding Heart Failure and Preserving Cardiac Structure and Function. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25908393
 Ahmed, A., et. al. (2015). Risk of Heart Failure and Death After Prolonged Smoking Cessation: Role of Amount and Duration of Prior Smoking. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26038535
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