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Times of India
30 October 2010

With heart attacks hitting young and old, renowned cardiologist Dr Shirish Hiremath speaks on the issue close to one’s heart
A Mighty Heart
When Fernando Soave said that our heart carries the wings of our dreams and the desire to realise them, he did not realise that the young, whose hearts are brimming with dreams and desires, will have something as horrifying as an heart attack hitting. A recent phenomenon has emerged with alarming ratios among the young – heart attacks and resultant deaths. India, which is fast emerging as the heart attack capital, has also seen a rise in such cases.

With the age for heart attacks falling at this rate, getting a few basic facts cleared up as soon as possible might be a good idea – in fact a great and healthy idea.

Renowned cardiologist Dr Shirish Hiremath demystified some of the myths and some major truths drilled into your heart and soul.

Some Myths About Heart Attacks:
A Heart Attack Stops The Heart From Beating
The heart attack takes place due to plaque and blood clots blocking the necessary blood flow to the heart muscle, which in turn, starts to due and a pain arises in the chest. On the other hand, the cardiac arrest (often confused with heart attack) happens when the heart stops pumping the blood. Such a patient will not breathe nor his pulse be felt. It is not that the heart attack will always lead to a cardiac arrest. So, panicking on this point will get you nowhere.

Stroke Is Another Name For Heart Attack
As said before, a heart attack happens due to decreased blood flow to the heart muscle. But strokes take place when the blood flow decreases to the brain. This can also often happen due to blood clots. Though the reasons seem similar, the two conditions are vastly different. While the heart attack generally cause chest pain and shortness of breath, strokes will generally convert into weakness on one side of the body, speech difficulty, confusion, and unconsciousness. Use your brain before you confuse the two.

No Chest Pain = No Heart Attack
Movies and general popular media has a caricature of how a person gets heart attack – s/he will be seen swooning like a drunkard clutching his heart and dropping to the floor. Is this true? Only partially. When the victim gets an attack, s/he will experience a shooting pain in the chest through the left arm. The pressure will be like having an elephant sitting on your chest. Not a very good feeling when you consider the elephant example.

Shortness of breath, pain in the arms, neck, , jaw or back (especially on the upper left side), sweating, feeling anxious or tired, and colour draining from your face are some of the sure–shot signs of an attack. A episode of the popular soap Friends (Season 6) has Phoebe suffer a heart attack due to extreme pressure. It explains a lot.

No Family History Means No Significant Risk
Though heart disease can run the family like diabetes, being hereditary is not destiny. Those coming from perfectly normal, healthy families can be struck with it due to risk factors like smoking, obesity, unhealthy diet and cholesterol which should be under strict control. So, all those who take their health for granted, beware.

Heart Disease Only Affects Older People
Be on your mark on this myth. Just look around you, ask and read. Newspapers these days, have started talking about how young and seemingly healthy people are not just getting heart issues or attacks but even dying due to it. In Dr Hiremath’s words, even middle–aged people and teenagers might have the fat blocking the major arteries, due which they suffer from heart attacks. So, when they tell you to be a responsible youth, one can now add this factor to it too.

Some Truths About Heart Attacks:
Heart Attack, Even If Survived, Can Result In Permanent Heart Damage
So, taking care of your heart should be your top priority, as even a little negligence can result in more problems, sometimes with severe results. Taking regular advice from your doctor is a good idea. Just don’t torture him into getting a heart attack, though.Heart Attacks Affect Women Differently From Men Yes, women too are not immune to this problem. Everything from where you experience the pain when you have an attack to the treatment differ in varying levels. So, women should reconsider about matters of the heart with this news.

Always Call The Ambulance In Case Of Chest Pain
Not calling emergency services or ambulance on time can be a bigger killer than the attack, as you lose precious time for treatment. So, if you have already had problems, talk to the doctor on how to take help from the emergency services.

It’s Never Too Late To Quit Smoking
For whatever reasons you have taken up smoking, giving it up will be the best gift you can give your heart. Just think: what’s more important? Health or smoking?

Stress Can Increase Chances Of A Heart Attack
Agreed that the present lifestyle does not make throwing stress away an easy task. But surely, a healthy life is more important. So, get your act together and find your own unique ways to beat stress. Taking up things you like can be that first step. The list continues.

These are just some information for a healthy heart and not to fright n you out of your wits. Having a healthy heart beats everything.

Some Tips For A Healthy Heart –Dr Shirish Hiremath is a Consultant Cardiologist & Director – Cardiac Cath Lab, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune.

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