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Health Minute: Heart Health Part 1

By: Claude

February is American Heart Month, and it’s a great time to determine your risk and learn more about the potential conditions that can impact your heart health. Today we are joined by Dr. Alexander Asser, Director of the Electrophysiology Lab at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. He has some important information about heart attacks and the symptoms to lookout for in your health.  

What is a heart attack?

               A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is when a sudden blockage of blood flow occurs in the coronary arteries that feed the heart.  It usually occurs when a build-up of cholesterol plaque breaks free inside these small coronary arteries, and our body reacts and forms a clot. The blockage prevents blood flow from reaching that region of the heart supplied by that artery, and cellular damage begins.  In cardiology we use a term, “time is muscle,” because the longer the heart is deprived of blood flow the more damage that can be done. As such, it is a medical emergency requiring prompt intervention.  Upon EMS arrival and/or arrival to the Emergency Room, an EKG will be immediately performed which may require an emergency cardiac procedure to open up the blocked artery.

Could you explain some of the signs to lookout for?

Some people will have typical symptoms of a heart attack including,  

  • Chest Pain
  • Discomfort in the jaw, neck, arm or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak, light-headed or faint

But women and diabetics may have less typical symptoms such as abdominal burning or discomfort. 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please call 9-1-1 and alert emergency personnel as soon as possible that you may be having a heart attack. Remember time is of the essence.   


How can you limit your risk of a heart attack?

  • Don’t Smoke, but if you do smoke it is never too late to quit 
  • Exercise Regularly, minimum of 30 minutes 3 times per week of cardio 
  • Lower your blood pressure 
  • Maintain a healthy and nutritious diet low in fats and cholesterol and low in sodium 
  • Reduce/Limit stress 
  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugars well controlled 
  • Keep your cholesterol low with a goal LDL less than 100 and for some with increased risk lower than 70 


What should be included in a healthy diet?

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Focus on whole grains
  • Limit added sugar and salt
  • Limit intake of processed foods

What are the differences between heart attack and cardiac arrest?

               As we discussed earlier, a heart attack is the body’s response to blood flow being obstructed within the heart’s arteries, known as the coronary arteries. Cardiac arrest is a condition where the lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles, suddenly go into an electrical storm, termed ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. Essentially the heart beats so rapidly that it is unable to pump blood. Patients with cardiac arrest will pass out, termed syncope, because basically the heart has stopped. The patient will stop breathing and be without pulse.  The most important thing to do during cardiac arrest is to begin CPR and defibrillate the patient as quickly as possible back to normal rhythm thereby restoring the normal pumping of the heart.  As always, discuss any of your health concerns with your physician.   

To learn your risk for heart disease, take our free and easy online risk assessment at AdventistHealthCare.com/LoveYourHeart.

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