|Category: Health Care
||20 Mar 11
Ten people died today. Five of them died from heart attack.
The other five died as a result cancer, Hiv/Aids, dengue and car accidents.
Last week I told you after interviewing Dr Lana Boodhoo, a highly trained UK
cardiologist and electro physiologist, that heart attack kills us more than
anything else—that no one, not even the young, especially not women are
immune. I wrote that deaths due to heart attacks make up 37 per cent of all
deaths in this country. Shockingly most of the dead will be women. They
seldom get a second chance. The response was unbelievable. At least a dozen
women wrote in, telling me about the sudden and shocking deaths of their
sisters and mothers, even daughters. Men wrote too. If it’s a lifestyle
disease they are ready to make the change. Everyone wanted to know more.
It’s encouraging. No one is immune. And if you take charge, a life can be
saved. I promised you last week that I will bring you the answers for young
female secretaries with high cholesterol. I asked her what women and men
could do to protect themselves from this number one killer. Today, Dr
Boodhoo answers all our questions. To begin, Dr Boodhoo differentiates
between heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
A circulation problem causes a
heart attack when one or more of the arteries delivering blood to the heart
is blocked. Oxygen in the blood cannot reach the heart muscle, and the
muscle becomes damaged. You can think of a heart attack as a “plumbing
problem.” If someone has symptoms of a heart attack, an ambulance should be
called and it may be useful to chew an aspirin.
Sudden cardiac arrest
SCA is the usual cause of
death in people who die within an hour of a heart attack and refers to a
heart rhythm abnormality. If someone collapses without a pulse (sudden
cardiac arrest) then resuscitation and time is key to survival, with chances
of survival decreasing about 10 per cent every minute without
defibrillation. The American Heart Association recommends defibrillation
within five minutes of collapse or sooner.
Signs of heart attack
So, how do you know you are
having a heart attack? Dr Boodhoo tells us that the most common sign of a
heart attack is pain or discomfort in the chest. It may feel like fullness,
squeezing or pressure and may be mild or severe, she added. A heart attack
may occur without any chest pain. Women are somewhat more likely than men to
experience some of the other common symptoms which include: shortness of
breath; pain in the arms, neck, jaw, or back; nausea, vomiting or
indigestion; unexplained sweating; sudden or overwhelming fatigue;
action can save lives but bafflingly, Dr Boodhoo says “women take longer
than men to respond to symptoms of heart attack, limiting the benefits of
treatments like clot busters that work best within the first few hours after
onset of pain. “Ideally, one shouldn’t wait more than five minutes to call
an ambulance. Chewing an uncoated aspirin (325 mg) right away, at the first
sign of chest discomfort or distress, can reduce the amount of damage to the
heart muscle during a heart attack.”
Dr Boodhoo revealed some statistics that are scary particularly for us
women. She said:
Sudden death is more common among women with heart
attack than men
do worse than men after having a heart attack.
About 50 per cent of deaths occur within one hour of the
heart attack outside hospital
We all know that factors which
contribute to heart disease are smoking, high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, family history of heart disease, obesity and age. Some of these
things we can’t help, like age, or family history. But we can use this
knowledge to assess our risk. We can give God and fate a little nudge and
live longer. It is in our hands. So if you want to dance at your
great-granddaughter’s wedding, or to see every major city in the world
before you die, or learn two languages, or sip cocktails on terraces in
Turkey and Nice, or lie in a tent at night while animals roar around you on
safari in Kenya, here’s what you should do:
Smoking is a major risk
factor for heart disease; this includes second hand smoke. Women who smoke
and use birth control pills increase their risk. Nicotine skin patches,
nicotine gum or prescription medicines can help you to stop smoking.
Control blood pressure
Blood pressure is considered high if it’s
greater than 140/90. In diabetics, blood pressure should never exceed
130/80. Limiting the amount of salt consumed in the diet, losing weight and
exercising regularly will help to control high blood pressure. If these
steps don’t lower blood pressure, then medicines should be prescribed.
Control cholesterol level
All adults aged 20 or older should have a fasting lipid
profile once every five years. It gives information about total cholesterol,
LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides. You may
need to have your cholesterol checked more often if:
Your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or more.
- You are a man over age 45 or a woman over age 50.
- Your HDL (good) cholesterol is less than 40 mg/dL.
For high-risk patients the LDL
cholesterol should be lowered to below 100 mg/dL. Recent evidence, however,
supports lowering it to below 70 mg/dL.
A healthy diet is key to
lowering high cholesterol levels. Keep fat calories to 30 per cent or less
of the total calories eaten during a day and avoid saturated fat (like the
fat in meats and dairy products).
However, some people may need to take medicine in addition to improving
their diet and exercise.
Take care of diabetes
In diabetics’ regular
exercise, weight control, a low-fat diet and regular doctor visits are
important. Medicine for diabetes should be taken exactly as prescribed.
That’s Dr Boohoo’s advice.
The last two points of maintaining
a healthy weight and exercising regularly are close to my heart. I’ve been
struggling with it, like all the women I’ve known all my life and I would
like to share my experiences with you in next week’s column. In the meantime
please keep sending me your stories on your own struggles to quit smoking
and resist that extra creamy slice of chocolate mousse.