Around the world, approximately 17 million people die due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), out of which, at least 3 million patients are estimated to be from Asia. Cardiovascular disease affects the heart and blood vessels. Coronary artery diseases (CAD) include angina and myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, rheumatic heart disease, heart arrhythmia, hypertensive heart disease, aortic aneurysms, congenital heart disease, peripheral artery disease, etc.

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Widow Maker Heart Attack

A heart attack usually occurs when the blood flow to any part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot. This happens when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, narrowing the arteries. This condition is called Atherosclerosis. The narrowed arteries make it difficult for blood to flow freely. The part of the heart muscle supplied by the artery begins to die if the clot blocks the blood flow completely, causing a heart attack or stroke.

Blockages in the left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) commonly referred to as the widow maker may cause major heart attacks (myocardial infraction) as the major portion of the left ventricle stops pumping. The LAD is a principal branch of the left main coronary artery supplying the front region of the left ventricle (anterior wall) and the interventricular septum (partition between two ventricles). If the LAD is blocked at its source, the blood supply is cut off resulting in significant loss of the heart's pumping function, which can cause sudden cardiac death.

Survival time ranges from minutes to several hours from when a widow maker heart attack strikes. Nausea, shortness of breath, pain in the head, jaw, arms or chest, numbness in fingers, often of a novel but imprecise sensation that builds with irregular heartbeat often signals the beginnings of a widow maker heart attack.

It's easy to mistake these early signs for food poisoning, flu or tiredness until they intensify. A widow maker isn’t instantly fatal kill but triggers cardiac arrest that kills within 10 to 20 minutes of no circulation. A victim with no pulse or breath is still living off oxygen stored in the blood and chances of rescue is high if treatment is begun promptly within this short time frame.

Over 90% of cardiovascular disease is preventable, by decreasing risk factors. Modifiable or controllable risk factors for CVD are:

Hypertension

High cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are referred to as blood lipid levels. Abnormal blood lipid levels increase the risk of heart diseaseand stroke.

Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The risk becomes higher for heavy smokers, women, and the younger you start smoking. Passive smoking or breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke is also a risk factor. Even chewing tobacco increases the risk of heart disease. Stopping the use of tobacco vastly reduces the risk of CVD.

Physical Activity

The risk of heart disease and stroke increases by 50% when people are physically inactive. Obesity is a major risk for cardiovascular diseaseon its own. Weight gain is a risk factor for diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Saturated Fats

High levels of saturated fat in diet contributes the risk of heart disease and stroke. Around the world, about 31% of coronary heart disease and 11% of stroke is caused by diets high in saturated fats.

Type2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a major risk factor for CVD and if the diabetes isn't controlled then cardiovascular disease is more likely to develop at an earlier age and it will be more devastating.

Alcohol

Though having one or two drinks a day may reduce heart disease by 30%, above this level alcohol damages the heart muscle.

Non- Modifiable Factors
  • Aging- getting older is a risk fact. People over the age of 55 are at risk of developing stroke;
  • Family History;
  • Men are more likely to get heart disease. However, the risk to post-menopausal women is similar to men’s.
Symptoms

Very often, there are no symptoms for cardiovascular diseases. The first sign is a heart attack or stroke, which include pain or discomfort in: The centre of the chest;

  • The arms, the left shoulder, elbows, jaw, or back;
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint or ;
  • Cold Sweat.

The most common symptoms for a stroke are:

  • Sudden weakness of the face, arm, or leg, often only on one side of the body;
  • Numbness of the face, arm, or leg, often only on one side of the body;
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding speech;
  • Finding it difficult to see with one or both eyes;
  • Finding it difficult to walk, feeling dizzy, loss of balance or coordination;
  • Severe headache with no known cause; and
  • Fainting spells.
What Should I Do If Someone I know has a Heart Attack?

The faster a person suffering a heart attack or stroke is given medical treatment, the better the chances of recovery.

Some people may never have been aware that they were at risk of heart disease or stroke. The quicker they receive medical intervention, the faster they recover:

  • Educate yourself about the warning signs;
  • If a person is alone, coughing repeatedly and forcefully - so-called 'cough CPR'- helps maintain cardiac output until help arrives (or you can get to the hospital). The theory is that coughing mimics chest compressions during CPR by increasing intrathoracic pressure and results in a flow of blood. - Coughing every 1 or 2 seconds in bouts of 5 coughs keeps the patient conscious and to call for help.
  • Learn to administer basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If you don't know CPR, skip the mouth- to- mouth breathing and compress the chest by placing the palm of your hand on the patient's chest just over the breast bone and pressing your hand in a pumping motion by using the other hand. The chest compressions should be about 100 per minute to be effective.
  • Raising the legs up 10 to 15 inches allows more blood to flow towards the heart.
  • The patient must not consume anything during a heart attack or while waiting for medical assistance.
  • The patient may take chewable aspirin tablets (300 mg) to limit the damage caused by the stroke or heart attack.
  • Make the person sit down and be calm. Loosen any tight clothing.
  • Call for emergency services, if available or take the patient immediately to the nearest hospital with critical care facilities.
Never
  • Don't tell the person to 'cough vigorously' as a viral rumour that circulated a few years directed people to do if they suffered a heart alone;
  • Don't drive yourself to the hospital, but ask someone to take you to the nearest hospital.
  • "Cough CPR" is NOT a replacement for Emergency Care and doctors advise patients to seek immediate help even if symptoms disappear.

Many healthcare providers dub the first hour following a heart attack the 'Golden Hour'. Rush to the nearest hospital if you experience any of the warning signs listed above. Delay is usually fatal.