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Heart Attack Facts and FAQ's
Myocardial Infarction (MI)

Heart Attack - Click here to jump to a list of natural remedies and vitamins you can use after you suffered through this condition. To prevent this from happening to you, see the section on the prevention of heart disease.

Introduction to Heart Attack or MI

heart attack Heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction or just MI, is a type of heart disease that affects about 1.5 million Americans annually.

It happens when a part of the heart muscle suddenly stops getting the needed blood supply. The heart muscle, which requires a constant supply of blood for oxygen and nutrition, starts to die immediately. Once the heart muscle dies, it can no longer function and that tissue becomes scar tissue. This would seriously affect how the heart works.

What causes the blood flow to be cut off suddenly? The most common cause is a blocked coronary (heart) artery caused by atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. And one of the main causes of atherosclerosis is high cholesterol.

How serious the MI is depends on where the blockage occurs and how large an area of heart muscle is left without a blood supply. If the blockage happened at a major coronary artery and a large area of heart muscle is cut off of blood supply, you can suffer a fatal massive MI and you can die immediately.

Never ignore the warning signs and symptoms of a possible MI. Quick and immediate attention can ensure you can successfully survive and recover from a MI.

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Table of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

What are some early warning signs and symptoms?

Some early warning signs and symptoms include:
  • crushing chest pain (angina)
  • chest pain that spreads out to the arms, jaw or the back
  • possible nausea and vomiting
  • sweating, restlessness
  • fear and anxiety
  • shortness of breath
Needless to say, there are no good options for using natural remedies to treat a MI. It must be treated as a medical emergency. (Of course, afterwards, there are indeed many herbal remedies you can use to reduce the risk of getting a second one.)

Immediate treatment is very important as over 50% of those suffering from a heart attack die within four hours of having symptoms. Early treatment will ensure you have the greatest chance of surviving with less future consequences.

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Are the early warning signs in women different than in men?

It has been believed in the past that women suffering from heart attack experience different symptoms than men. This is not always true. Regardless, of the gender, the most common symptom is still chest pain. Keep in mind that women tend to report the chest pain differently. Both men and women may also experience nausea, dizziness, sweating and anxiety.

Before menopause, women have the heart protective benefits of estrogen (female hormone). Because of this, many women are under the false belief that they are not as likely to get a heart attack. Don't believe this. Seek medical help immediately if you experience any of these symptoms, especially those not typical of a heart attack.

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What does it mean that some heart attack symptoms are silent?

About 20% of people suffering from a MI show no major signs or symptoms. Most of these are very "mild", which is why the signs and symptoms are not noticed and are ignored. It is a concern that these people will not get the necessary treatment to prevent a more severe one some time in the future.

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What are some of the causes of heart attack?

Causes of a MI include the following:
  • irregular heart beat (arrhythmias)
  • electrical shock causing the heart to stop beating
  • narrowing and blockage of the coronary arteries caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • blockage of the coronary arteries caused by a blood clot that came from elsewhere in the body
  • spasm of the coronary arteries
  • aneurysm (rupture of coronary arteries)
The most common cause is blockage or narrowing of the coronary arteries caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

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What are the after effects of getting a heart attack?

The after effects of getting a MI will depend on how much of the heart muscle was damaged. A "mild" one means that only a small part of the heart muscle was permanently damaged. A "major" (or massive) one means a large portion of the heart muscle is damaged.

Damaged heart muscle does not contract or work (and essentially becomes scar tissues). It also doesn't conduct the electrical impulse so it can lead to irregular heart beat.

Having damaged heart muscle causes the entire heart not to pump very well. This is a leading cause of heart failure (the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body).

When you do any physical activity that causes your heart to work harder (e.g. physical exercise, climbing up a flight of stairs, sexual intercourse, etc...) you many feel exhausted, totally out of breath and need to sit down and rest. You may not necessarily feel any pain.

The after effects of a "mild one" may be minimal and you can get back to your regular activities after some time (perhaps after 1-3 months). If you suffered a "major" one, recovery is much longer and you may not be able to get back to doing as much as you are used to without getting exhausted quickly.

To give you an analogy, it's like having your car with a 6-cylinder engine running on 3-cylinders only. Yes, it just has enough power to drive on a flat road but as soon as you go up the small hill, there's just no power at all.

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At what age can you have a heart attack?

People as young as 20 years old (and even younger) can suffer from this disease. However, a MI at this early age is often due to congenital (birth) defects of the heart, infection type heart disease and illicit drug use.

It is unlikely for young people to suffer from a MI from atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). However, due to an unhealthy lifestyle we lead today, more people are likely to suffer from a MI at an earlier age.

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What does it mean when my doctor said that I suffered from a mild heart attack?

A mild MI is one which only a small part of your heart muscle is permanently damaged. Click here to jump to the section on the after effects for a full explanation.

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How can you prevent a heart attack?

To prevent a MI, you need to follow a healthy lifestyle including proper diet and an exercise program. Here's the quick list you can use:

Quit smoking - Smoking increases the risk of heart attacks by more than 100%. Even just being exposed to second-hand smoke increases the risk.

Proper diet - A proper diet is essential to reduce your chances of getting heart attacks. Click here to jump to the answer.

Moderate exercise - Moderate exercise reduces the risk of heart attacks. Avoid heavy exercise as it is shown to actually increase the risk of heart attacks within 1 hour right after the exercise.

Reduce weight - Being overweight is shown to be linked to increased risk of getting heart attacks.

Type A personality - Type A personality is a person who shows impatience and aggressive feelings and behaviours. Research studies showed mixed results but common sense would suggest that this type of personality is not a good one to have.

Stress - Studies seem to show that stress, worry and anger increase the risk of suffering from a MI. It's a good idea to manage these negative emotions to lower your risks.

High cholesterol - High cholesterol is a major cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). 

Diabetes - Unmanaged blood sugar levels speed up the atherosclerosis process.

High blood pressure - Unmanaged high blood pressure damages the blood vessels and speeds up the atherosclerosis process.

Depression - It has been shown that people suffering from depression seems to have a higher risk of getting a MI.

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Are there any natural treatment options?

Natural remedies are best used to prevent getting a MI some time later. You must seek medical help immediately if you are suffering from a MI.

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What diet should I go on afterwards?

Here are tips on foods you should avoid:

Reduce meat and poultry  - There is a type of iron (heme iron) found these foods that seem to increase the risk of getting a MI. Cut back to one serving a day.

Reduce saturated fats - Cut back on saturate fat found in meats, butter and solid fats.

Cut back on eggs - Some research studies seem to show that eating more eggs increases the risk of getting a MI. However, there are studies showing that eating more eggs didn't matter.

Cut back on refined carbohydrates - Cut back on simple sugars, white flour and white rice. Studies link increased consumption of refined carbohydrate with an increased risk of getting heart attacks.

Here are the types of foods that you should eat more of.

Nuts - Almonds, walnuts, macadamia, hazelnuts and pistachio nuts contains many heart health nutrients such as fiber, vitamin E, magnesium and arginine. Experts believe nuts can directly protect against heart disease. Many of these nutrients lower cholesterol.

Olive Oils - Olive oil contains large amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids that show anti-inflammatory benefits and lowers cholesterol. It also has phenolic compounds that prevents oxidative damage by free radicals and also prevents blood clots (like what Aspirin does).

Fish - Omega 3 fatty acids, found in great abundance in fish is shown to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Fruits and Vegetables - Eat more of every kind. May fruits contain potent antioxidants that may protect against the atherosclerosis process.

The above dietary tips basically describe the Mediterranean diet that is shown by extensive scientific studies to reduce heart disease by 70% compared to those on a standard diet.

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Can I engage in sexual intercourse after a heart attack?

Sexual intercourse is a type of physical activity that puts your body under physical stress.

It is unlikely that sexual activity can cause heart attacks. Studies show that it is not no more likely to happen than those suffering from angina or heart disease. By keeping fit with an appropriate exercise program, watching your diet, you can reduce the chance of that happening.

As for when you can start sexual activity afterwards, it will depend on how your recovery is going and how severe it was.

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What is the reason for taking Aspirin (ASA) before, during and after a heart attack?

Aspirin can cut the risk of death or getting another heart attack. It thins the blood out a bit to make sure blood clots do not form, especially in the narrowed coronary arteries. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you should go on ASA.

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Conclusion - Life after suffering a heart attack

Suffering from a heart attack changes the way you look at your life. Only after the event do most people start to change their diet, think of quitting smoking, start a suitable exercise program and perhaps learn to control stress.

In addition to lifestyle changes, mostly diet and exercise, there are some natural remedies that you can consider taking to help you along with your recovery. Many of these herbs and natural supplements have been shown to be helpful in keeping the heart functioning at its maximum capacity.

Return to Health Conditions List
References for Heart Attack
Revised: July 12, 2012

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