Heart Disease: Heart Attack and Angina
Posted in First Aid Articles, on July 30, 2020
Heart Disease: What It Is & What To Do About It
Both conditions “Heart Attack” and “Angina” are caused by poor circulation to the heart muscle. A heart attack specifically is caused by a blockage in the blood vessels of the heart itself (coronary arteries) while an angina attack is brought on due to the narrowing of those same blood vessels because of plaque buildup.
These conditions do not happen over-night and are often actually a result of lifestyle choices. These conditions take years to develop, therefore we have time to change our sedentary lifestyles and prevent them. The earlier you adopt a healthier lifestyle, the less the chances of developing heart conditions will be.
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors:
- Age: Risk of heart disease increases with age. This is simply due to wear and tear of our bodies. Having an active lifestyle (as opposed to a sedentary one) has proven to significantly decrease this wear and tear but aside from that, it is a normal part of our life cycles. (Jakobsen et al 2004)
- Gender: Until the age of 65, men have shown to have an increased risk of heart disease. This is known to be because of 1) the fact that men carry most of their excess fat high in their bodies which can affect their internal organs, and 2) men lack have significantly lower levels of estrogen; the hormone estrogen plays a protective role again plaque buildup. (Jakobsen et al 2004)
- Diabetes: This disease is known to cause damage to blood vessels and in turn to the circulatory system (Wahid et al 2016). We will discuss this disease in more details in a later blog post.
- Genetics: Some people are unfortunately more genetically predisposed to heart disease than others. Having family history of heart disease is usually a good indication whether you are at a higher risk or not. If you do believe that you might be at a higher risk, we suggest consulting with a physician and try your hardest to control the risk factors that you can. We will discuss these modifiable risk factors further below (Cambien 1997).
Modifiable Risk Factors:
While genetics do play a role in developing heart disease, unhealthy voluntary habits have proven to play a bigger part in someone’s fait when it comes to heart disease. These voluntary habits (that we can control) are considered Modifiable Risk Factors:
- Smoking: Aside from the obvious harmful effects of smoking (lung cancer), the harmful chemicals in cigarettes are absorbed by the blood and carried all over the body. These chemicals can cause a array of negative effects such as increase your blood pressure, stiffen your blood vessels and cause plaque to build up on the walls of your blood vessels.
- Obesity: Having excess body fat puts a lot of extra stress on your body and organs. Losing excess body fat might seem like a daunting task but it will significantly lower your chances of heart disease.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: A lot of us live sedentary lives and severely lack exercise. Adding more physical activity to your life can go a far way when it comes to your health; even if it is just a 30-minute walk in the evenings. Just to name a few benefits of physical activity are: 1) losing excess fat 2) having more energy for your daily activities 3) strengthened bones and muscles.
- High Blood Pressure: Blood pressure is defined as the force the blood exerts on your blood vessels as it flows through them. Chronic high blood pressure (hypertension) causes the blood vessels to stretch beyond their normal capacity and in turn cause microtears in them. These microtears will then heal and form scar tissue which can partially or fully block blood flow. Additionally, high blood pressure may simply cause the blood vessels to burst. The best way to determine your blood pressure is visiting your physician on a regular basis and having them check your blood pressure.
- Poor Diet: Unbalanced and unhealthy diets are like a double-edged sword. On one hand, bad diets just don’t provide you enough energy and foster sedentary lifestyles while on the other hand, they can actively increase the level of bad cholesterol and cause plaque buildup. Poor diet is directly associated with heart attacks, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many other diseases.
- Salt: Excess sodium intake directly increases a person’s blood pressure. Most people eat about 4x as much salt as needed.
- Stress: Excessive and chronic stress is shown to be positively associated with heart disease. Stress chemicals that are released are thought to have detrimental effects on the heart and blood vessels.
The more risk factors someone has, the higher their chances of developing a circulatory disease can be. The only good approach to minimize this risk is to consciously change and limit the modifiable risk factors that someone is exposed to.
Signs and symptoms:
1- prolonged crushing, squeezing, or burning pain in the center of the chest
2- pain that radiates from the chest area to the neck, arms, shoulders, or the jaw
3- shortness of breath
6- chills and sweating
7- weak pulse
8- cold and clammy skin, pale skin tone, a severe appearance of illness
Treatment of Heart Attack and Angina:
As a first aider, your ability to help a person suffering from acute heart disease is extremely limited. If you suspect someone of having a heart attack, follow these steps:
- Call 911 and call for help
- Loosen tight clothing around the person’s neck to allow for easier breathing
- Keep yourself and the victim calm
- Monitor the victim’s vitals every 5 minutes and do your best to keep them awake
- If the person goes unconscious, update 911 and start CPR
Beatty, B., Soo, W., Stevens, P., Patterson, L., Mumford, P., Molin, J., . . . Boyd, R. (2018). Canadian First Aid manual. ON: Lifesaving Society.
- Jakobsen MU, Overvad K, Dyerberg J, Schroll M, Heitmann BL. Dietary fat and risk of coronary heart disease: possible effect modification by gender and age. Am J Epidemiol 2004;160:141–9.
- Wahid A., Manek N., Nichols M., et al. (2016) Quantifying the association between physical activity and cardiovascular disease and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Heart Assoc 5:e002495.
- Hoffman, R. M., Psaty, B. M. & Kronmal, R. A. Modifiable risk factors for incident heart failure in the coronary artery surgery study. Arch. Intern. Med. 154, 417–423 (1994).
- Cambien F, Poirier O, Mallet C, Tiret L. Coronary heart disease and genetics an epidemiologist's view. Mol Med Today 1997; 3: 197– 203.