Cardiovascular pathologies are among the most common in our country, affecting about 5.5 million people, are the leading cause of hospitalization, with about 1 million cases (14% of the total), for heart attack, stroke or other forms of ischemia, and they are also the leading cause of death (36% of all deaths).
With direct healthcare costs of around 16 billion euros, to which more than 5 billion indirect costs must be added, cardiovascular diseases therefore constitute a common but very dangerous problem, which is also suffering numerous repercussions following the Coronavirus epidemic.
As reported by the Italian Society of Cardiology SIC4, in fact, in the last period there has been a reduction of about 50% in hospitalizations for acute coronary syndromes, with a consequent increase in mortality especially in the case of heart attack (14%, tripled compared to 2019).
The prevention, with one healthy lifestyle and periodic check-up of the values concerned, thus becomes the winning and fundamental strategy for protecting oneself from the consequences of cardiovascular diseases, especially for people who have already suffered an acute event.
So let’s see what it is and what are the symptoms of a heart attack, and the habits to follow and the values to check to keep the heart healthy.
Heart attack: what it is and what are the symptoms
Cardiac infarction is a lesion of the muscular wall of the heart, the myocardium. During a heart attack, the blood flow inside the coronary arteries, which carry nutrients and oxygen to the cells that make up the myocardium, is interrupted due to the formation of a thrombus (a clot of platelets and fibrin) at the atherosclerotic plaques. accumulations of fat of which the main component is cholesterol. The blood supply of the heart cells is then interrupted by the thrombus and they, as a result, die.
Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack immediately becomes therefore essential to be able to act promptly. Immediate intervention, in fact, is a crucial factor for the heart: the longer you wait, the more heart cells will die.
If chest pain occurs, which may radiate to the neck, left arm or back, often accompanied by cold sweat and general malaise (paleness and pain), difficulty breathing, weight on the stomach and a sense of distress, the numbers should be called immediately emergency (112 or 118).
Furthermore, it is good to remember that following a heart attack, the risk of incurring a second acute event increases. In this case, “secondary prevention” becomes fundamental, ie following the doctor’s instructions and achieving the objectives required to lower the risk of incurring a second heart attack.
The habits to follow to keep the heart healthy
Especially for those suffering from cardiovascular conditions, having some good habits is essential to prevent further problems. So let’s see what to do and what not to do to keep the heart healthy.
quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke – smoking is a bad habit that affects about 20% of adults with negative effects on blood clotting and inflammatory processes;
keep blood cholesterol levels under control;
faithfully follow the therapy prescribed by the doctor;
never stop therapy on your own initiative;
reduce alcohol consumption;
follow a varied, low-sodium and hypoglycemic diet;
in case of diabetes, follow the doctor’s instructions, in addition to proper nutrition and physical activity appropriate to the disease;
maintain a healthy weight;
carry out physical activity suited to your state of health;
keep stress under control;
sleep at least 6-8 hours a night.
The values to keep under control
Since it is always essential to follow the advice and instructions of your doctor, there are some values that must be kept under control to limit the risk of heart attack and other acute cardiovascular events. Chief among these is LDL cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a lipid (or fat) normally found in the bloodstream, and includes LDL cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol”, and HDL cholesterol, or “good cholesterol”. LDL cholesterol, if present in excess, damages the arteries and increases the risk of heart attack, as it favors the formation of atherosclerotic plaques: for this reason it is essential to keep its levels under control, especially if you have already had a heart attack.
The cholesterol levels recommended by the 2019 guidelines on dyslipidemias of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the European Society of Atherosclerosis (EAS) are:
– A reduction of LDL of at least 50% from baseline and a target LDL <55 mg / dL are recommended for very high-risk patients.
– For very high-risk patients who have a second vascular event within 2 years of the first (not necessarily of the same type) while being treated with statins at the maximum tolerated dose, a target LDL <40 mg / dL is suggested.
– A reduction of at least 50% from baseline and a target LDL <70 mg / dL are recommended for high-risk patients.
– For those at moderate risk – for example a person with diabetes mellitus without complications – an LDL target <100 mg / dl is suggested.
– A target LDL <115 mg / dL is suggested for low-risk individuals.
Other values and risk factors to keep under control to keep the heart healthy include:
triglycerides – lipids present in the blood circulation, the quantity of which must be less than 150 mg / dL;
arterial hypertension, or high blood pressure – blood pressure, under normal conditions, should be below 135 mmHg for the maximum and 85 mmHg for the minimum, to be measured preferably in the morning and at rest;
diabetes mellitus – a disease linked to blood glucose values (glycaemia) permanently above 126 mg / dL. In fact, in diabetic patients, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases from 2 to 4 times compared to healthy subjects.
weight and obesity, risk factors also for hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia – it is therefore important to check your Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference, as weighing excessively compared to your height and / or Excessive abdominal adiposity contributes to an increased risk of developing or worsening cardiovascular diseases.