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The Top 5 Surprising Risk Factors for Heart Attack

According to the CDC, a heart attack occurs in the United States every 40 seconds. Also known as myocardial infarction, a heart attack occurs when part of the heart fails to receive adequate blood flow. Each year, nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a heart attack and, for more than 200,000 of them, it is a second attack.

Heart attacks can range from mild to severe, but the scary thing about them is that they can come on seemingly without warning. What’s more, about one in five heart attacks is silent – this means that it causes damage to the heart muscle but shows no sign of it. You may already know about certain risk factors for heart attack such as obesity and genetics, but there are some surprising risk factors you should learn about as well.

What Exactly Happens During a Heart Attack?

Your heart is the center of your cardiovascular system – the system that is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood throughout your body. When you breathe air into your lungs, the oxygen enters your bloodstream and is then transported throughout the body. Not only does your heart pump oxygenated blood to other vital organs, but it requires a certain amount of oxygen itself in order to function properly. When that oxygen supply is reduced or cut off, it can trigger a heart attack.

In simple terms, a heart attack happens when oxygen-giving blood flow to the heart is severely reduced or cut off completely. There are a number of different contributing factors which can cause this to happen, but atherosclerosis is the most common. If you have high cholesterol and follow an unhealthy diet, you are more likely to develop an accumulation of fat in your arteries. That fat combines with cholesterol and other substances to form plaques that thicken the artery walls, causing them to narrow which then restricts blood flow – this is called atherosclerosis.

When an artery becomes so narrowed that it restricts blood flow which triggers a heart attack. The longer the heart is deprived of oxygen, the more damage it is likely to sustain. Treatment for heart attack involves opening the blocked artery to restore blood flow. Once that goal is accomplished, additional treatments or therapies may be administered to mitigate symptoms and to repair the damage.

What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Attack?

Eating an unhealthy diet and failing to get any regular exercise are two of the biggest risk factors for heart attack along with obesity and family history. Your risk for heart attack may also be higher if you have certain cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. What you may not know, however, is that there are some other indications which may not seem related to your heart health but could very well contribute to an increased risk for a heart attack – here are the top 5:

  1. Your skin is dry and scaly.
  2. You’ve been exposed to environmental toxins.
  3. You take OTC pain relievers for cold or flu.
  4. You have chronic shoulder pain or stiffness.
  5. Your ears have taken a beating.

If you have dry patches of red, scaly skin on your body – particularly on the elbows – it could be more than just dry skin, it could be psoriasis. Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition triggered by autoimmune activity that speeds up the life cycle of cells, causing them to accumulate on the surface of the skin in formations known as plaques. Because the driving force behind psoriasis is inflammation, it has been linked to heart disease. In fact, studies show that having psoriasis can increase your risk for heart disease by two to three times. This could also mean an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The air you breathe, the food you eat, and the products you use could be full of toxins without you realizing it. Though hidden toxins are dangerous, it is the obvious things like smog which are the most damaging. Environmental toxins like smog can wreak havoc on your health, but you may be surprised to learn that they could also increase your risk of heart attack. Studies show that cumulative exposure to smog can worsen cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease and, in conjunction, heart attack.

When you are hit with the flu or develop a cold, you probably reach for over-the-counter medications to relieve the aches and pains. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen are generally regarded as safe, and they can help relieve mild symptoms. According to a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, however, these same drugs could increase your risk for a heart attack if you take them while suffering from a respiratory infection. Researchers have yet to explain the link, but it could be related to an increased risk of bleeding and blood clots.

Chest pain that radiates to the neck and arm can be an early indication of heart attack, but what about shoulder pain? Chronic shoulder pain may not directly cause heart problems, but recent studies have identified a correlation between an increased risk for heart disease and shoulder trouble. In a study of 36 participants, those with numerous risk factors for heart disease were found to be 5 times more likely to have shoulder joint pain than those with no cardiac risk factors.

When you think of heart disease and heart attack risk factors, your ears probably never enter your mind. According to new research, however, prolonged or frequent exposure to loud noises was correlated with higher rates of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), heart failure, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. So, while noise may not directly cause heart disease, it may have a negative impact on various aspects of cardiac health which could contribute to a higher risk of a heart attack.

Heart-related symptoms are never something you should ignore, even if they seem mild. You should also keep in mind that the symptoms of heart attack look different in men than in women, so take the time to educate yourself for your own protection.

 

Pregnant? Here Are 6 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy for Diabetics

Pregnancy is a challenging time for any woman. Between the hormone fluctuations, swollen feet, and sore back, just making it through your daily routine can be rough. If you are pregnant and have diabetes, however, things can get even more complicated.

It is entirely possible to manage your diabetes while pregnant, but there are a few special precautions you should take for your own safety and for your baby’s wellbeing. Keep reading to learn about six simple tips for a healthy pregnancy with diabetes.

The Top 6 Tips for Managing Diabetes While Pregnant

If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar levels stable is of the utmost importance. Your diet and lifestyle play an important role in diabetes management and, if possible, you should get things under control before you even think about getting pregnant. Whether you planned to get pregnant or not, however, there are some simple tips you should follow to ensure a healthy pregnancy if you are diabetic – here are the top six:

  1. Understand the risks. During the first 8 weeks of pregnancy is when your baby’s heart, brain, kidneys, and lungs start to form and high blood sugar during this period can affect your baby’s development and increase the risk for birth defects. High blood sugar may also increase your risk of miscarriage and the risk that your baby might be born too early.
  2. Get your bad habits under control. If you are a smoker, you should quit. If you are obese, lose some weight. If your diet is unhealthy, fix it. Making improvements to your diet and lifestyle will not only benefit your health but the health of your baby as well. The sooner you get your health under control, the better it will be for you and your baby.
  3. Control your blood sugar. As a diabetic, you should already be taking steps to keep your blood glucose levels stable, but this becomes increasingly more important if you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor about the best method for managing your blood sugar and then stick to his advice. You’ll also need to test your blood sugar regularly, so you will know when it is getting too low or too high. While pregnant, you should be testing your blood sugar at least once an hour.
  4. Pay attention to your diet. The food you eat is the biggest factor that affects your blood sugar levels, so be very mindful of your diet. Focus your meals on low-glycemic foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fresh vegetables, and healthy fats. Try to limit your intake of refined sugars and processed carbs because these foods are the most likely to cause a spike in blood sugar. If you have trouble keeping food down during pregnancy, keep some whole-grain crackers handy to settle your stomach when you have morning sickness.
  5. Develop a support network. Being pregnant is difficult enough, but the added challenge of diabetes on top of it can be overwhelming at times. Talk to your partner about what they can do to help you manage your diabetes while you are pregnant and don’t be afraid to rely on them when you need help. You may also find it beneficial to join an online support group or find one in your community. Not only is it helpful to have this kind of support, but it will benefit you to connect with people who are in the same situation as you.
  6. Consider going off your oral diabetes medications. For many diabetics, oral medications are essential for managing blood sugar. Unfortunately, diabetes medications like metformin have not been proven safe for use during pregnancy. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that they are dangerous, but neither is there enough evidence to show that they are safe – it is better to be safe than sorry. Talk to your doctor about going off your diabetes drugs and what you’ll need to do to manage your diabetes in another way.

As a diabetic, getting pregnant comes with certain risks, but diabetes is by no means impossible to manage while you are pregnant. If you are not currently diabetic, don’t assume that you are out of the woods – gestational diabetes is a condition that affects about 4% of pregnant women. For your own safety and for the health of your baby, talk to your doctor about diabetes if you are pregnant so, if you have it, you can get it under control.

Are You A Woman Over 40? Take These Medical Tests Today

Turning forty can be a bit of a shock but with age comes experience and, hopefully, wisdom. Unfortunately, getting older can also come with an increased risk for certain health problems. If you’re in the tail-end of your thirties or you’ve already gone over the hill, there are certain medical tests and health screenings you should take to make sure you stay healthy for decades to come.

The Top 10 Medical Tests to Take After 40

Though you should always keep an eye on your weight and activity level, these and other things become increasingly more important as you age. Keep reading to learn about the top ten medical tests and health screenings you should have after 40 to keep an eye on your health. Here they are:

  1. Blood pressure – The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends having your blood pressure checked at least once a year starting at age 20, but you should have it done more often as you get older. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, so make sure you’re in the healthy range which is below 120/80 mm Hg.
  2. Blood lipid profile – A simple blood test is all you need to check your blood lipids – this includes LDL or “bad” cholesterol, HDL or “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides. These are also risk factors for heart attack and stroke, so have them checked at least once a year.
  3. Blood sugar – If you are obese or have a family history of diabetes, your risk of developing the condition is much higher. A fasting glucose test will give a good indication of whether or not you are diabetic, as can an A1C test and a review of symptoms such as frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased appetite.
  4. Eye exam – Even if you have never had to wear glasses, an annual eye exam is important to catch developing problems in the early stages. Once you hit 40, you should be tested annually for glaucoma and various forms of retinal
  5. Mammogram – Recommendations vary regarding mammograms for women – some say you should have them annually after age 40 while others say wait until 50. The American Cancer Society recommends annual breast cancer screenings for women between 45 and 54 with biennial screenings for women over 55.
  6. Pap smear – Women of childbearing age should receive an annual pap smear, but once you are done having kids, you may not go to your ob-gyn as often as you used to. Once you hit 40, however, it is recommended that you have a pap smear and an HPV test every 3 to 5 years. If you have multiple sexual partners, you may want to include an STD test as well.
  7. Skin exam – Prolonged sun exposure without protection can greatly increase your risk for skin cancer and other dermatological problems. By the time you hit 40, you’ve accumulated a lot of sun exposure, so it may be time for a skin exam. In fact, most dermatologists recommend annual exams.
  8. Thyroid test – It is estimated that as many as 13% of women between the ages of 35 to 65 have hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland. When you hit 35, it is a good idea to have your thyroid function checked at least every 5 years – more often once you hit menopause.
  9. Mental health screening – Mental health problems like depression and anxiety can affect women at any age, but hormonal changes related to menopause might cause new problems to develop in your forties. Talk to your doctor about mood-related symptoms and consider a mental health screening.
  10. Dental exam – It is estimated that as many as 90% of people around the world have some level of gingivitis or other forms of periodontal disease. As you get older, you may develop dental problems that could increase your risk for gingivitis. Daily oral hygiene is important to prevent periodontitis, but you should also have a professional cleaning every 6 months.

When it comes to your health and wellness, you are your own strongest advocate. Make sure you see your doctor at least once a year and talk to him about the medical tests and health screenings from the list above. Even if they don’t show any developing problems, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you are in the best of health. If they do show something, you’ll have hopefully caught it early enough to treat it properly.

 

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