Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

The Fear of Heart Attacks

Heart attacks kill people.

Strokes not only kill people, strokes can also paralyse them for the rest if their lives.

Both these conditions, Heart attacks and Strokes, belong to what are termed Cardio-Vascular Diseases – conditions of the heart and blood vessels that are responsible for a large number of premature deaths in our country. It would not be untrue to say that everyone of us would know someone who was felled prematurely by a sudden heart attack or stroke.

This is tragic – because these sudden cardiovascular events are to a large extent preventable. Both heart attacks and strokes occur because the blood vessels that supply fresh blood to our vital organs like the heart and brain have become narrow. As the diameter of these vessels (through which blood has to flow to maintain the circulation) becomes narrower, the blood flow to these organs can be easily cut off by a circulating clot getting stuck in the narrow vessel. Simply explained, when a portion of the heart or brain suddenly loses its blood supply, it dies and ceases to function.

While narrowing of one’s blood vessels takes place naturally as we age, there are certain factors that hasten the narrowing of these vessels (and therefore increases the chance of them getting easily blocked). Older folk obviously are more vulnerable to cardiovascular events – as are those who, by virtue of the genes they have inherited, are born with narrower blood vessels or have a tendency to narrowing that is greater than the rest of the population. Age and inheritance of genes are factors that we cannot change.

But there are a number of factors that put one at risk of getting a heart attack or stroke that CAN be modified.

Smoking is the single most preventable cause of heart attacks. Inhaling cigarette vapours narrows the blood vessels – so quitting smoking certainly minimises the risk of suffering a heart attack.

Having elevated blood pressure, having too much cholesterol in the blood stream, having diabetes, leading a physically inactive and sedentary existence, becoming overweight and carrying more weight than your heart was meant to service – all these place one at greater risk of suffering a premature heart attack or stroke.

What can be done to prevent the sudden cutting off of the blood flow to your heart (heart attack) or brain (stroke)?

If you are over fifty, get a regular annual check-up done. Neither high blood pressure, high cholesterol nor diabetes cause symptoms in the early stages – so the only way you will know if your blood pressure is too high, your cholesterol abnormally elevated or your blood sugar out of control is if you measure these regularly. Once you know that you are having one or more of the dangerous Risk Factors, you can take steps to correct them.

Especially if you have cardiovascular disease in your family, it is worth getting the appropriate diagnostic tests done – and then with the help of your doctor, begin a programme to get your abnormal readings back to the safe level.

Many folk put off getting a Heart Check Up. Sometimes the fear of finding something amiss is greater than the actual fear of getting a heart attack!

Although death is inevitable for all of us, we do not have to die prematurely!



This entry was posted on June 9, 2020 by in Health Matters and tagged , , .

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