Learning About Heart Attacks
- A study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Virology has revealed a shocking spike in heart attacks among adults in the 25-44 age group.
- A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is described by Cleveland Clinic as “an extremely dangerous condition that happens because of a lack of blood flow to your heart muscle.”
- If someone is experiencing a heart attack, which is a life-threatening emergency, 911 should be called or a local emergency service.
The study, from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Virology on September 29, 2022.Read More
However, by 2022, heart attacks increased by 29.9% for adults in the 25-44 age group, 19.6% for adults in the 45-64 age group, and 13.7% in the 65 and older group.
“There are several potential explanations for the rapid rise in cardiac deaths in patients with COVID-19, yet still many unanswered questions,” said Cedars-Sinai physician-scientist and author of the study, Yee Hui Yeo, MD, according to KHON2.
“Importantly, our results highlight disparities in mortality that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic and that are persisting even through the Omicron era,” Dr. Yeo added.
Dr. Yeo said the spike in heart attacks comes after a “decades-long steady improvement in cardiac deaths” pre-pandemic.
“We are still learning the many ways by which Covid-19 affects the body, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or race,” she explained. The study’s team suspects that Covid-19 may have “triggered or accelerated” people with pre-existing conditions of coronary artery disease.
The researchers noted job loss, financial stress, and social anxiety as some possible external factors contributing to the surprising rise in heart attacks.
With regard to Covid-19 being connected to a rise in cardiac events, Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute and an author of the study, said, “There is something very different about how this virus affects the cardiac risks.
“The difference is likely due to a combination of stress and inflammation, arising from predisposing factors and the way this virus biologically interacts with the cardiovascular system,” Dr. Cheng explained.
What Is A Heart Attack?
A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is described by Cleveland Clinic as “an extremely dangerous condition that happens because of a lack of blood flow to your heart muscle.”
“The lack of blood flow can occur because of many different factors but is usually related to a blockage in one or more of your heart’s arteries,” the clinic explains. “Without blood flow, the affected heart muscle will begin to die. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, a heart attack can cause permanent heart damage and death.”
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If someone is experiencing a heart attack, which is a life-threatening emergency, 911 should be called or a local emergency service.
“Time is critical in treating a heart attack, and a delay of even a few minutes can result in permanent heart damage or death,” the clinic warns.
Heart Attack Symptoms
Symptoms of a heart attack, which will likely differ between men and women, that people often report are:
- Chest pain (also caled angina). “This can be mild and feel like discomfort or heaviness, or it can be severe and feel like crushing pain. It may start in your chest and spread (or radiate) to other areas like your left arm (or both arms), shoulder, neck, jaw, back or down toward your waist,” according to Cleveland Clinic.
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Fatigue or trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Nausea or stomach discomfort (Heart attacks are often mistaken for indigestion or heartburn)
- Heart palpitations
- Anxiety or a feeling of “impending doom”
- Feeling lightheaded, dizzy or passing out
If someone appears to be having a heart attack and is unconscious, they should check to see if the person is breathing and has a pulse. If neither is found, CPR should be performed.
“If you’re untrained in CPR, do hands-only CPR. That means push hard and fast on the person’s chest — about 100 to 120 compressions a minute,” Mayo Clinic suggests. “If you’re trained in CPR and confident in your ability, start with 30 chest compressions before giving two rescue breaths.”
Heart Attack Risk Factors
For men, the risk of heart attack increases at age 45. For women, the risk increases at age 50 or after menopause. A family history of heart disease also plays a role in risk.
Heart attack risk factors also increase with:
- Lack of physical activity
- A diet high in sodium, sugar and fat
- Smoking or tobacco use (including smokeless or chewing tobacco and vaping)
- Drinking too much alcohol.
- Drug use
The following health conditions can increase your risk heart attack risk:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia)
- History of preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Eating disorders
Be Your Own Advocate
You know your body better than anybody else. That’s why it’s so important to advocate for yourself in a healthcare setting. This applies to anyone experiencing new symptoms and looking for an answer, as well as people who have already been diagnosed with serious diseases like cancer. Doctors are there to guide you through a treatment plan, but your wants and needs should be part of that plan as well. Oncologists and survivors alike stress the importance of advocating for yourself.
This could mean asking additional questions about symptoms or a diagnosis, getting a second opinion, or doing your own research so you can come to doctor appointments prepared to voice your concerns.
Dr. Zuri Murrell, director of the Cedars-Sinai Colorectal Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet that healthcare guidelines are meant to do the right thing for the largest number of people while using the fewest resources.
“The truth is you have to be in tune with your body, and you realize that you are not the statistic,” he said.
Be Pushy, Be Your Own Advocate… Don’t Settle
Dr. Murrell says not every patient will “fit into” the mold, so it’s important to “educate yourself and be your own health care advocate.”
“Every appointment you leave as a patient, there should be a plan for what the doc is going to do for you, and if that doesn’t work, what the next plan is,” Dr. Murrell said. “And I think that that’s totally fair. And me as a health professional – that’s what I do for all of my patients.”
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
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