Delay in seeking medical attention for heart attack changes life

Don’t delay in seeking medical attention if you are concerned about a heart attack

Time is muscle if the heart is not getting the proper blood flow to the muscle, the muscle dies. The muscle is unable to repair itself and eventually that portion that dies is converted to scar tissue. Scar tissue is not flexible and doesn’t push the blood out of the chamber of the heart. If the blood is not pushed through the heart the amount circulating through the body is reduced. This can lead to serious heart related complications, including congestive heart failure, angina, shortness of breath and limited ability for physical activity.  This creates complications for many things including returning to work, or causing early retirement as the article above discusses.

Discomfort, squeezing, pressure, heaviness, aching…in the chest, between the shoulder blades, the neck, jaw or down the arms are the classic symptoms. If accompanied  by shortness of breath, nausea, profuse sweating the condition is all the more urgent. Chew up 325mg aspirin and call 911.

Resource for Heart Failure

http://www.heartfailurematters.org/EN/Warning-signs/Warning-signs

 

Below is some of the content from the above listed web site. It is a great resource for helping heart patients to understand the warning signs of heart failure and the actions to take. If you are a heart patient, or the significant other/caregiver take the time to review this site. It is important sometimes the symptoms sneak up on you.

 

 

Heart failure can be managed well with the right treatment and lifestyle adjustments, as recommended by your doctor or nurse. However, it is important to monitor all your symptoms on a regular basis as heart failure can progress slowly.

 

You can use the list on the left or any of the links below to learn more about the symptoms you should be monitoring and what to do if they get worse.

 

You should call for help immediately if you experience:

 

Persistent Chest pain that is not relieved by glyceryl trinitrate (GTN / nitroglycerin)

Severe and persistent shortness of breath

Fainting

 

You should inform your doctor as soon as possible if you experience:

 

Increasing shortness of breath

 

Frequent awakenings due to shortness of breath

 

Needing more pillows to sleep comfortably

 

Rapid heart rate or worsening palpitations

 

And you should discuss any of the symptoms below with your doctor or nurse.

 

Rapid weight gain

 

Progressive swelling or pain in the abdomen

 

Increased swelling of the legs or ankles

 

Loss of appetite/nausea

 

Increasing fatigue

 

Worsening cough

 

To help you monitor your symptoms, please click on the links below to find useful resources that you can download, print and fill in. You can then take these with you when you see your doctor or nurse and discuss your symptoms.

 

Symptom and event diary

 

Monitoring your heart failure chart

 

Warning signs leaflet

 

 

 

Exercising with heart disease

Start slow and add a little more over time. Make it feel  as if when finished feel like you could have done more easily. Begin exercising at this intensity for several sessions before making large increases in your intensity or effort required to be physically active. . Remember the whole goal is to adapt, and by doing so the body is changing how it responds. In the early recovery stage  the exercise prescription is very light. Do you know What exercise prescription is best for you?

Since exercise should be part of your everyday routine in order to make it a lifelong habit  injury avoidance is important to be aware of overuse signs and symptoms, to rest those muscles when needed.  Occasionally cardiovascular disease patients develop Peripheral Artery Disease and symptoms can present similarly to overuse. Pain should signal the body to be aware that something is going on.  Take some time to evaluate that pain, what happens with it, does it always come on at a certain time or point of the exercise or activity? How long does it take to go away? Can it be avoided while being active by another means for instance switching from walking to biking?  Make sure you communicate these findings with your healthcare practitioner as they could be signals of other health conditions related to heart disease and it’s recovery.

Some exercise and activity is better than none, so start slowly. Even a warmup is better than no exercise session here is why  warming up before strenuous activity helps your heart.

Don’t expect results overnight, but do take small steps each day. Move that blood around, push it through the muscles. Make the muscles use the oxygen in the blood  more efficiently. Exercise helps the the heart recover and stay strong.

You might not notice any big changes—especially in your weight—for a few weeks or even months. It is still good for your heart health! It is not all about weight loss. Forget the scale for a while. In fact many who initially start to exercise following hospitalization are  Sedentary at the start and will gain a couple of pounds. It is their muscles getting pumped up, holding and utilizing more blood flow. Generally the focus on how you feel.

 When not to exercise is if you are presenting with Signs and symptoms of heart problems. Exercise should be avoided if  if you are presenting with congestive heart failure, or are presently sick. When returning to exercise following illness 

Symptoms to be alert for include these.

What people with heart conditions need to know about Atrial Fibrillation

This progressive and debilitating disease can lead to stroke, heart failure, and Alzheimer’s disease, and can double your risk of death. Afib takes a physical toll, an emotional toll, and a financial toll on those who are living with it—not just the patient, but the family, too.

Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn’t life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment.

It can lead to complications.

Symptoms of A Fib

• Skipping, fluttering,or quivering of heartbeat
• Heart beating too hard or fast
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Confusion
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain or pressure
• Tired when resting or when active
• Swelling of feet, ankles,and legs
• Feeling anxious

Here is a short video Do you know what Atrial Fibrillation feels like?

What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) occurs if the heart’s electrical signals don’t travel through the heart in a normal way. Instead, they become very rapid and disorganized. With atrial fibrillation (AFib),the electrical signals of the heart are abnormal.

• The top and bottom parts of the heart don’t work together as they should
• The heart beats very fast and irregularly
• As a result,blood is not properly pumped to the bottom part of the heart and the rest of the body

Damage to the heart’s electrical system causes AF. The damage most often is the result of other conditions that affect the health of the heart, such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease.

 

Understanding the Electrical Problem in Atrial Fibrillation

In AF, the heart’s electrical signals don’t begin in the SA node. Instead, they begin in another part of the atria or in the nearby pulmonary veins. The signals don’t travel normally. They may spread throughout the atria in a rapid, disorganized way. This can cause the atria to fibrillate.

The faulty signals flood the AV node with electrical impulses. As a result, the ventricles also begin to beat very fast. However, the AV node can’t send the signals to the ventricles as fast as they arrive. So, even though the ventricles are beating faster than normal, they aren’t beating as fast as the atria.

Thus, the atria and ventricles no longer beat in a coordinated way. This creates a fast and irregular heart rhythm. In AF, the ventricles may beat 100 to 175 times a minute, in contrast to the normal rate of 60 to 100 beats a minute.

If this happens, blood isn’t pumped into the ventricles as well as it should be. Also, the amount of blood pumped out of the ventricles to the body is based on the random atrial beats.

The body may get rapid, small amounts of blood and occasional larger amounts of blood. The amount will depend on how much blood has flowed from the atria to the ventricles with each beat.

Most of the symptoms of AF are related to how fast the heart is beating. If medicines or age slow the heart rate, the symptoms are minimized.

AF may be brief, with symptoms that come and go and end on their own. Or, the condition may be ongoing and require treatment. Sometimes AF is permanent, and medicines or other treatments can’t restore a normal heart rhythm.

Major Risk Factors

A good question to ask your healthcare provider is what is the cause of my AFib?

Atrial Fibrillation  is more common in people who have:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
  • Heart Failure
  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • Structural heart defects, such as mitral valve prolaps
  • Pericarditis;  a condition in which the membrane, or sac, around your heart is inflamed
  • Congenital Heart Defects
  • Sick sinus syndrome (a condition in which the heart’s electrical signals don’t fire properly and the heart rate slows down; sometimes the heart will switch back and forth between a slow rate and a fast rate)

AF also is more common in people who are having heart attack or who have just had surgery. The risk of AF increases as you age. Inflammation also is thought to play a role in causing AF.  Drinking large amounts of alcohol, especially binge drinking, raises your risk. Even modest amounts of alcohol can trigger AF in some people.  Sometimes, the cause of AF is unknown.

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Treatment Goals

• Slow heart rate
• Regain normal heartbeat
• Treat causes
Lower risk of stroke and heart failure

Warning Signs of Stroke

• Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg ,especially on ONE side
• Confusion
• Difficulty speaking or understanding
• Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Trouble walking or with balance
• Dizziness
• Severe headache

Warning Signs of Heart Failure

• Shortness of breath
• Trouble doing usual activities
• Difficulty breathing when lying flat
• Weight gain
• Swelling in legs, ankles, or feet

Treatment options

 Heart Procedures

  • Cardioversion

Cardioversion is done two ways: An electrical procedure,  in which your heart is given low-energy shocks to trigger a normal rhythm. You’re temporarily put to sleep before the shocks are given. This type of cardioversion is done in a hospital as an outpatient procedure. “Outpatient” means you can go home after the procedure is done.

Cardioversion through use of medicines. Using medicines to correct arrhythmias also is a form of cardioversion. This type of cardioversion usually is done in a hospital, but it also can be done at home or in a doctor’s office. It is known as a rhythm controller

  • Catheter ablation

During catheter ablation, a series of catheters (thin, flexible wires) are put into a blood vessel in your arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck. The wires are guided into your heart through the blood vessel.
A special machine sends energy to your heart through one of the catheters. The energy destroys small areas of heart tissue where abnormal heartbeats may cause an arrhythmia to start.

Catheter ablation often involves radiofrequency (RF) energy. This type of energy uses radio waves to produce heat that destroys the heart tissue. Studies have shown that RF energy works well and is safe.

Lifestyle changes

  • Do I need to change my eating habits?
  •  Should I change my activity level?
  • What else can I do to lower my risk?
  •  Stopping smoking
  •  Limiting/avoiding alcohol
  •  Limiting/avoiding caffeine

Resources:

Living with Atrial Fibrillation patient educational materials

Learn about Atrial Fibrillation here

A heart away from stroke documentary  Discovery Channel explores the connection between atrial fibrillation and stroke – in order for patients to learn about the importance of stroke prevention

Sources:

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/index.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/atrial-fibrillation/DS00291

http://www.stopafib.org/

 

Sodium: What gives Caregivers and Cardiac Rehab Staff Nightmares

Working cardiac rehabilitation, one wants to take time off around Saint Patrick’s day and Easter. Often patients come in with weight up 10 lbs in one to three days, short of breath, swollen, and having elevated blood pressure. When asked, they report celebrating Saint Patrick’s day with sauerkraut and sausage, corned beef and cabbage, with lots of bread on the side, then celebrated Easter early with a ham dinner with gravy.

Caregivers take note, well-intentioned friends and family may have prepared meal or stocked freezers full of sodium laden foods thinking they are helping out during a  medical crisis. Be alert to sodium and it’s effect on heart health.  Programs such as  Meals on wheels also has a tendency to have very salty meals. 

If you find weight up, swollen feet/ankles/belly/face, shortness of breath and elevated blood pressure consider the  dietary sources of sodium. 

Sodium causes fluid retention, weight goes up,  and is often treated with increased diuretics (Lasix, Aldactone, Demedex, Bumex, Zaroxolyn etc.). The body can become resistant to diuretics however, so adding more and more diuretics can be dangerous. These throw off the electrolytes and disrupt the sodium potassium balance of the body, which can set in motion additional heart problems including arrhythmia’s - irregular heart beats that could be deadly. Other side effects of diuretics include:

  • increased blood glucose levels
  • increased calcium
  • increased cholesterol
  • potassium loss
  • increased uric acid, which might trigger a gout attack in certain people

Bought raw or in a can, corned beef brisket is very salty. One 3 ounce serving of cured corned beef has 964 mg of sodium, 40 percent of your daily value of sodium. In addition to sodium, corned beef is generally made from the fattier brisket areas, so the fat and cholesterol levels tend to be on the high side when compared to some of the more commonly available beef cuts. 1 cup of Cooked Sauerkraut has about 900 mg of sodium. Ham isn’t better - 4 oz. of ham can have between 1000 and 3000 milligrams of sodium. 

Sodium, Salt, Na, MSG, natural flavors, natural spices, Sodium Nitrate,

  • Monosodium glutamite,
  • Sea salt,
  • Disodium phosphate,
  • Baking soda,
  • Sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium algonate, are all names of sodium.

 If your diet is going be high in sodium, eat more potassium-rich foods. Potassium helps to lessen the dangerous effects of sodium. Foods high in potassium include bananas, potatoes, squash, spinach, raisins, cantaloupe, beans and lentils.

Rinsing foods such as sauerkraut, or canned beans or veggies in a colander can remove up to 40%. Read labels and aim for foods with 300 milligrams or less of sodium per serving.

 To learn more about salt and heart health click here

To learn more about how to lower sodium in diet click here.

To learn more about sodium and it’s effects on the body