Heart Attackes and Strokes

Some facts about Cardio-Vascular Diseases
  • Approximately 17.5 million people died due to CVD’s in the year 2005 (accounting for 30% of all global deaths that year).
  • More than 80% of deaths occurring due to CVD’s take place in low and middle income countries.
  • Death due to CVD’s occurs almost equally in men as well as women.
  • Stroke is the 3rd most common cause of death in developed countries, bypassed only by coronary heart disease and cancer.

What are Cardio-Vascular Diseases?

  • Coronary heart disease: It refers to a disease that affects the vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle. If there is a complete blockage of blood supply to any part of the heart, the muscles (in that part of the heart) die, leading to a Heart Attack.
  • Cerebro-Vascular disease: It refers to the situation wherein, if, for some reason, blood supply to any part of the brain is blocked, the nerve cells in that part of the brain die, leading to a Stroke.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack:

  • Discomfort in the chest region that lasts for more than a few minutes.
  • Discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Other symptoms include nausea, light-headedness and/or breaking out in a cold sweat.

What is to be done if a Heart Attack occurs?

  • Act immediately.
  • Make the person lie down comfortably.
  • Raise the persons head, to aid in breathing.
  • Loosen his/her clothing and reassure the person.
  • Rush the person to the hospital, if conscious.
  • If it so happens that someone gets a Heart Attack and he/she is alone, the person should cough vigorously 2-3 times and take a deep breath. This cycle should be repeated till the person feels better and then, assistance should be sought for immediately.

Cardio-Vascular Diseases treatment

  • With the aid of drugs, the following are treated:
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorders)
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • If medication isn’t enough, operations are required to be performed in the following cases:
  • Coronary artery bypass
  • Balloon angioplasty
  • Valve repair/replacement
  • Heart transplant
  • Artificial heart operations
  • In some cases, the following artificial devices can be used:
  • Pacemakers
  • Implantable defibrillators
  • Coronary stents
  • Prosthetic valves
  • Artificial heart

Risk factors for Heart Attacks

  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Regular smoker
  • In terms of modifiable risks, the major factors are:
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • Tobacco consumption
  • Improper diet
  • Obesity
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Abnormal lipids profile
  • Diabetes

High Blood Pressure

  • Major cause of heart attacks and strokes
  • A blood pressure count of 140/90 or higher, for any length of time, is considered as high blood pressure
  • There are no early stage symptoms of high blood pressure (hence, earning it the name- ‘the silent killer’)

Steps to be taken to control High Blood Pressure:

  • Physical activity: Helps battle diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity. It is also highly effective in reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Avoid usage of tobacco in any form: Among the various forms of tobacco usage, consumption of cigarettes is the deadliest. It damages the blood vessels, increases clotting and promotes coronary artery spasm. Women smokers are said to be at a higher risk of getting a heart attack than male smokers.
  • Balanced diet: High amounts of fats, salts and refined carbohydrates should be avoided.

  • Food items to be avoided: Cheese, meats, chicken, eggs, noodles, cakes, biscuits, confectionaries, white bread, potato chips, pickles etc.
  • Food items to be consumed: Fruits, green leafy vegetables, fish and so on.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI): It is a measure of weight in relation to height, and is commonly used for ‘overweight’ classification. The BMI should be maintained below 25.
  • Abnormal blood lipids: High levels of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and low levels of HDL cholesterol increase the risk of CVD’s.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a disease that is rampant in India. It can lead to heart attacks at a much younger age and can be kept under control only through regular exercise, consumption of a balanced diet and proper medical treatment.
  • Heavy consumption of alcohol must be avoided.
  • Gender: It has been noticed that men are more prone to coronary heart diseases and strokes as compared to women.
  • It has also been noticed that South Asians are increasingly becoming victims of cardiovascular diseases.


  • Disease that affects the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.
  • The effects of a stroke are most often permanent, owing to the fact that brain cells, once dead, cannot be replaced.

Symptoms of a stroke

  • Sudden numbness/weakness in the face, arm or leg.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or comprehending.
  • Sudden trouble in sight (one eye or both)
  • Sudden trouble in walking or loss of balance/coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache due to no cause known.


  • Lifestyle modifications: Smoking/alcohol consumption cessation, balanced diet, regular exercise and a low sodium intake.
  • Treatments with the aid of drugs like Aspirin, Antihypertensives, Thromboytics, and Anticoagulants and so on.