Heart attacks happen when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a buildup of fat. Following this obstruction, it is common to feel pain that travels from your chest to your arms, jaw, neck, back and tummy. It is imperative to respond to the warning signs to minimise the damage inflicted on the heart muscle.
Hampering this effort is the prevalence of silent heart attacks, which, as the name suggests, do not present visible warning signs or lack the intensity of them.
A significant proportion of people that have a silent heart attack are left with myocardial scars, research suggests.
For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at almost 2,000 people ages 45 to 84 (half of whom were men) who were free of cardiovascular disease.
After 10 years, eight percent had myocardial scars, which are evidence of a heart attack.
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“People with larger scars have a higher risk of other heart problems and death,” it adds.
How to respond to heart attack symptoms
If you recognise the symptoms of a heart attack, it’s essential to dial 999, advises the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
“Don’t worry if you’re not completely sure whether your symptoms are a heart attack, it’s really important that you seek medical attention regardless as quickly as possible,” explains the BHF.
Next, you should:
- Sit down and rest
- Take a 300mg aspirin if you have one within arm’s reach
- Stay calm and wait for the paramedics.
Avoid foods containing high levels of saturated fat, as they increase levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood.
Foods high in saturated fat include pies, fried foods, sausages and fatty cuts of meat.
You should aim to follow a Mediterranean-style diet – this means eating more bread, fruit, vegetables and fish, and less meat.
According to the NHS, oily fish, such as herring, sardines and salmon, can form part of a Mediterranean-style diet, but there’s no need to eat this type of fish specifically to try to prevent another heart attack.