Heart Health: 5 Questions on Heart Attacks Answered

Cardiology Specialist Dr Ramasami Nandakumar explains the symptoms of a heart attack, what to do and how to prevent them

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The World Health Organisation warns that cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death globally1. An estimated 17.7 million people died from CVDs in 2015, representing 31% of all global deaths. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke2.

Vanilla Luxury: What is a Heart Attack?

Dr Ramasami Nandakumar: A heart attack as we know is when one of the blood vessels supplying the heart with blood is blocked because of blood clots. The muscles of the heart do not get enough oxygen or nutrition and this usually causes chest pain, which we term as a “heart attack”.

Vanilla Luxury: What are the Usual Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

Dr Ramasami Nandakumar: There are some common warning signs such as chest discomfort or a feeling of pressure in the chest area; shortness of breath; cold sweat or nausea or vomiting; pains in the neck, jaw, stomach, arms or back2; lightheadedness or sudden dizziness; and anxiety.

Pain or tingling exclusively in the left arm is also a well known symptom of impending blockage. This symptom with chest pain or discomfort brought on by exertion is also called angina (i.e. chest pain due to narrowing of the blood vessel).

Vanilla Luxury: Do the Symptoms Differ for Men and Women?

Dr Ramasami Nandakumar: As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, back or jaw pain, lightheadedness, fainting or extreme fatigue4.

Vanilla Luxury: What Does One do in the Event of a Heart Attack or Cardiac Arrest?

Dr Ramasami Nandakumar: Firstly, learn to recognise the signs of a heart attack or a cardiac arrest. Call emergency services for help straight away. If you are trained, you may perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). It is useful to learn the basic skills of CPR.

If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available, use it or get another person to fetch the AED while you administer CPR. Turn on the power of the automated external defibrillator (AED) and follow the AED instructions5

Vanilla Luxury: How to Minimise the Risk of a Heart Attack?

Dr Ramasami Nandakumar: Remember, heart disease is preventable. Besides managing your diet and physical activity, regular health check ups should indicate which risk factors you have. It is recommended to get a health screening done every 2 years to check your blood pressure level, cholesterol level and blood glucose level5. The frequency recommended may be more depending on your risk profile.

Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist to learn about your personal risk and what you can do to minimise that risk. Undergo the necessary investigations and you will find it’s a half-day well spent.

Dr Ramasami Nandakumar is currently working as a Senior Interventional Cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital and Mount Alvernia Hospital. He is also a Visiting Senior Consultant at Ng Teng Fong Hospital and National University Hospital. You can reach Dr Kumar on +65 82616483 (WhatsApp) or via his website www.h2h.com.sg.

References:

1http://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/en/

2http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/

3http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Symptoms-in-Women_UCM_436448_Article.jsp

4http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Warning-Signs-of-a-Heart-Attack_UCM_002039_Article.jsp#.WjokgrRdIWo

5https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/your-heart/heart-attack-symptoms

6http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Heart-Health-Screenings_UCM_428687_Article.jsp#.WkHLCLRdIWo