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HeartRecently, a man in his mid-40s was brought into the ER; he was experiencing chest pain, difficulty breathing and was drenched in sweat. This patient did not look like someone who was at risk of heart disease – he was fairly young and of average weight with no history of cardiac problems. Yet his symptoms, vitals, high blood pressure and electrocardiogram (ECG) showed that he was in fact having a heart attack.

The risk of heart attacks significantly rises in men over the age of 45 and women over 55; heart attacks in younger people are relatively uncommon and therefore usually unexpected. This is the reason why everyone needs to know the signs of a heart attack so that immediate measures can be taken.

Chest pain is the most obvious symptom; but the pain can also manifest itself in the arms, left shoulder, jaw and the back. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, extreme nausea, vomiting, indigestion and a light-headed feeling; some patients also break into a cold sweat and become pale. It is worth noting that diabetics may not even feel chest pain.

If you, or anyone you are with, experience these symptoms – call an ambulance immediately. While waiting for medical assistance, slowly chew and then swallow a 300 mg tablet of aspirin (if you are not allergic to it) – this helps thin the blood and restore blood supply to your heart.

What many people don’t realise is that chest pain can be the first intimation of cardiovascular disease which is caused by high blood pressure and raised blood glucose and lipids. These imbalances usually stem from obesity, unbalanced diets and unhealthy lifestyles.

If you are above the age of 45, overweight, smoke and have a family history of heart disease, it is a good idea to keep a regular check on your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels to prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases. A healthy lifestyle and little exercise at an earlier age can take your heart a long way.

– Dr Waqar Saeed
The writer is Emergency Physician and General Practitioner, Bluedot Healthcare.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on October 27, 2013.