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Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest in Men

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How can I prevent a heart attack or cardiac arrest?

The goal of heart attack and cardiac arrest prevention is to avoid clots and the build-up of plaque in your arteries called atherosclerosis. If you can keep blood flowing smoothly through your body, your risks of having problems are much lower.

Plaque builds up gradually. The good news is that you don't have to worry that a single order of fettuccine Alfredo will suddenly plug up your arteries. The bad news is that decades later, your arteries may still show some ill effects of all that junk you ate in high school and college. Almost no one has significant coronary artery disease at the end of college, although the process starts in childhood. It accelerates markedly around age 50 to 60.

So how do you reduce the build-up of plaque? You probably already know the answer. It's all the stuff you should be doing (but maybe aren't). You can reduce the build-up if you do the following:

  • Exercise for at least half an hour most days of the week.
  • Eat right -- preferably a diet low in saturated fat (less red meat) and high in fruits and vegetables.
  • Lose weight (if you're overweight).
  • Don't smoke -- smokers are 2 to 4 times as likely to develop plaque in the coronary arteries.
  • Reduce emotional stress.

It's so easy to put off making these changes. You keep meaning to eat better and exercise, but somehow it doesn't happen. You stall, you make excuses, and the years slide by. Eventually, some men assume that they're too old for any changes to make a difference, that the die is cast. But that's not true. Studies show that even people who have full-fledged heart disease live longer if they make positive changes in their way of life.

There are other medical conditions that increase your risk of clots – such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. So if you have any of these, you need to control them with lifestyle changes or medication. Some men benefit from taking daily low doses of aspirin, but you should always check with your doctor first.

Sure, some risk factors are beyond your control -- such as increasing age, family history, and the misfortune of being born a man. But even then, making changes to your way of life can still have a positive effect. Your genes are not your destiny! You have the power to create positive life-saving changes.

How are heart attacks and cardiac arrest treated?

Obviously, anyone who's having a heart attack or cardiac arrest needs emergency treatment. You need emergency help if you have symptoms such as any of the following:

  • Pain, squeezing, or discomfort in the chest
  • Pain that radiates into the arms, shoulders, neck, or jaw
  • Shortness of breath, sweating, and nausea
  • Racing heartbeat accompanied by dizziness or nausea
  • Unconsciousness

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