It’s no secret that heart attacks have now achieved the unenviable status of being the No.1 killer in India. Nearly 30 lakh people suffer from heart attacks every year in India. More alarmingly, about 20 percent of them happen to be people below the age of 40. Today, there has been a staggering 117 percent rise in heart attack mortality compared to 1990.
What is a Heart Attack?
A Heart Attack, also called MI (Myocardial Infarction), occurs when an artery (blood vessel) supplying blood and oxygen to the heart becomes blocked due to the gradual build-up of cholesterol, fat and other substances that form plaque. Plaque eventually breaks away to form clots interrupting the blood flow. The resulting loss of blood flow damages our heart muscle.
A heart attack can be life-threatening. However, there has been a marked improvement in its treatment over the years. Nevertheless, it’s very important to seek emergency medical help if you think you or your loved ones might be having a heart attack.
Obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, sedentary (inactive) lifestyle, etc are known risk factors of a heart attack. Some non-modifiable factors like age, gender, family history, including autoimmune conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. can also be responsible for a heart attack.
What Triggers a Heart Attack?
A Heart attack or a stroke does not occur out of blue. They usually manifest after an annoying fat-rich plaque gradually worsens after being lodged in our arteries (that nourish our heart and brain) for decades. So, why does it happen at a particular time then? It happens because something triggers it!
There are many identified triggers including anger, reaction to natural calamities (like a heat wave, floods, earthquakes), to simply getting up from bed in the morning.
While some triggers make your heart beat faster, others cause a sudden surge in blood pressure. And, yet other triggers help in narrowing of blood vessels, the formation of blood clots, or even setting off bursts of inflammation. Any of these may culminate in:
- The abrupt formation of the blood clot that can lead to a heart attack or ischemic stroke
- Blood vessel tear leading to an untamed heart rhythm that may lead to cardiac arrest or a aorta surgery.
Also Read About: Blood Clot in The Brain
There is a continued search for more triggers in generating possible ways to prevent potentially life-threatening cardiovascular events. However, the more important identified triggers include:
Heights of anger or a heated argument can surely provoke a heart attack or stroke. Studies have shown that the chances of having a heart attack increase many folds (between 9 – 14 fold) over a two-hour period after the incident that provoked the anger. Anger management, trying to know signs that get you angry, is mandatory if you often experience bouts of anger.
Heavy Physical Exertion
Running, lifting heavy objects including other types of strenuous physical activity may set off heart attacks or strokes. But, don’t take this as an excuse for not exercising. In fact, physical activity does not cause trouble to people who exercise regularly compared to those who do not work out at all.
It’s a well-known fact that emotional stress can cause many heart ailments, especially in patients with a history of heart disease. These problems include Heart Attack, Hypertension, Arrhythmia, and Heart Failure & Heartburn Many research studies point that Heart Attacks suddenly spiked on the day of natural calamities like floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. Stress management techniques help in reducing heart attacks in such situations
Waking From Sleep
Did you know that your body trickles stress hormones into your bloodstream to prepare you for a new day, long before you get up? These stress hormones constrict your blood vessels, making the heart beat faster. It also increases your blood pressure which is low during your sleep time. This action ensures that sufficient blood flows through the blood vessels at the time you wake up. Therefore, most of the cardiovascular conditions peak between 6 am and 12 noon.
Smoking is the single largest risk factor found among younger people presenting with heart attacks. Heart attack, especially among the young, invariably present with severe chest pain and transmural heart attack (a Complete Heart Block). As many as 75 percents of heart attacks are due to smoking history. Hence, quit smoking at all costs to contain heart attacks.
Several studies have shown that change in weather, especially a very rapid change in the weather, like severe cold and heat waves triggers cardiovascular problems including a heart attack. Cold weather is more likely to spike heart attacks as it it surges in December and January.
In addition, air pollution, overeating lack of sleep, grief, work-related and/or mental stress, holidays, watching or participating in sporting events and use of recreational drugs are few other heart attack triggers.
Keeping a regular tab on your heart will surely give you a clue if your heart is under attack. And, how do you keep a check on your heart?
You can keep your heart healthy by regular physical activity and avoiding junk foods. A 20-30 minute moderate-to-intense workout, at least three times a week and including plenty of vegetables/fruits in your regular diet will make your heart strong. In addition, take a comprehensive heart health check up regularly. Talk to your local healthcare provider to avail a complete heart health package.