Heart Aware: Do you know the signs of a heart attack?
By Dr. Robert Pilchik, Chief of Cardiology, Northern Westchester Hospital
A heart attack is easy to recognize, right? Not always. People tend to expect a heart attack to be painful, but often it’s a feeling of pressure or tightness in the chest. And for women, the chest pressure or tightness may be missing altogether, which is why it’s so important to be aware of all the signs of a heart attack.
Chest pressure or tightness is just one symptom, and it can radiate out to the arms, neck, or jaw—typically on the left side of the body. Other potential signals that you’re having a heart attack include profuse sweating, shortness of breath, numbness or weakness in your limbs, lightheadedness, and a fluttery sensation in your chest. For women, all the symptoms are the same, except that chest pressure is much less common than it is in men. Fatigue seems to be the primary symptom in women. Any tiredness that comes out of the blue and feels extreme, that’s an indication of a possible heart attack.
If you think you or someone you’re with may be experiencing a heart attack, the first thing to do is call 911, and have the person chew an aspirin. Do them simultaneously if possible. Aspirin’s anti-clotting properties can help restore blood flow back to the heart and minimize damage to the heart muscle.
Of course, the best treatment for heart problems is prevention. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and controlling your weight are the surest ways to reduce your heart disease risk. People who are active, careful about their diet and have acceptable cholesterol levels can still suffer a heart attack as a result of family history. That’s why regular checkups are important, and you should review your genetic risk with your doctor. Sometimes it makes sense for a patient with acceptable cholesterol levels to take a statin to help control the type of inflammation that can lead to blocked arteries.
The bottom line: Take care of yourself. Most cardiovascular disease is preventable. It’s the choices we make that get us into trouble.
Lifestyle Habits Impact Healing
Having a well-trained cardiology staff with a “patient-first” approach helps insure quality care at Northern Westchester Hospital. But healing doesn’t stop when the patient is discharged. Northern Westchester Hospital also offers key rehabilitation services, like medically-monitored exercise. A lot of patients have never exercised before, so the hospital provides access to assessment and training by fitness professionals. The hospital also offers a teaching kitchen: A place where patients can learn about good nutrition and practice healthy cooking techniques. Patients can also get guidance in practicing stress release techniques such as meditation and yoga. These lifestyle habits are as important as what doctors can do for patients. I think these services are great.
Visit www.nwhRehab.org to learn about our cardiac rehabilitation services.
Take a tour of our Rehabilitation facility located at the NWH Ambulatory Care Center at Chappaqua Crossing (formerly Reader’s Digest).
When you need a snack, grab a small palm-full of nuts—a great source of monounsaturated fats, the type known to help protect against heart disease. This is equal to about 28 peanuts, 23 almonds, 20 pecan halves, and 14 walnut halves. Nuts are very calorie dense, so try and eat no more than an ounce a day. They’re healthy, but don’t go completely nuts.
Editor’s Note: Source: ChooseMyPlate.gov. Robert Pilchik, MD, is Chief of Cardiology, Northern Westchester Hospital in Mt. Kisco, NY