According to the CDC, every year in the United States, about 735,000 people have heart attacks. Heart disease kills someone about once every 60 seconds, accounting for one in every seven deaths in the United States. This staggering number shows why it's important to know about different types of heart attacks and what to do to prevent them so that you don't become a statistic.
But what causes a heart attack? Blood and oxygen are supplied to the heart by coronary arteries. When those arteries are narrowed by plaque and cholesterol, blood flow is restricted. This causes chest pain, or angina. When plaque and fat deposits increase, they can eventually block arteries. This deprives the heart of the oxygen it needs to function correctly, and a heart attack can strike.
Three Types of Heart Attacks
1. Coronary Artery Spasm (CAS)
Also known as a silent heart attack, CAS is the least severe of the three types of heart attacks. You may not even know you had one without an MRI, EKG or blood tests. Symptoms of CAS are subtle and can present as a case of indigestion or flu-like symptoms. Other possible symptoms are the feeling of muscle strain in the chest, back, jaw or arms, or a feeling of excessive fatigue. While this type of heart attack is not considered as serious, it could increase your risk of having another, more serious, heart attack in the future.
2. NSTEMI Heart Attack
This type of heart attack occurs when a coronary artery is partially blocked. To find out how badly blocked an artery is, a coronary angiography must be done. Blood tests are also done to determine troponin protein levels. Symptoms can include pain or tightness in the chest; shortness of breath; pain in the jaw, neck, back or stomach; or dizziness, lightheadedness and sweating.
3. STEMI Heart Attack
This is the most severe “classic” heart attack. It occurs when a coronary artery is blocked completely, causing serious damage to the heart. Symptoms include pain or tightness in the center of the chest, as well as possible pain in the back, arms, jaw or neck. Other symptoms can be nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath and anxiety.
If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
Seven Tips for Preventing a Heart Attack
According to the American Heart Association, the best way to prevent a heart attack is with lifestyle changes. This is what they recommend.
1. Stop smoking. When you smoke, your heart rate and blood pressure go up. Smoking also clogs arteries, thickens blood and fills lung with tar, increasing your risk of a heart attack.
2. Eat nutrient-rich foods that help control blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and weight -- all of which can be contributing factors to a heart attack. Limit red meats, fried foods and sugar; instead, enjoy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats.
3. Be more active. Activity helps you keep your weight under control, helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and makes your heart stronger and more efficient. Aim for about 30 minutes of activity per day.
4. Manage health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. When left unmanaged, your chances of a heart attack increase.
5. Reduce stress. Stress can contribute to high blood pressure, which, in turn, can increase your risk for a heart attack.
6. Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol raises blood pressure and can also contribute to an irregular heartbeat.
7. Get regular health screenings to rule out or pinpoint high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes so that you can take control of these issues.