General information on heart attack – All about the signs, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart attack, in men and women alike.
General information on heart attack
From olden times, medical writers both in India and abroad, have been aware of the fact that excessive eating and drinking, may make a man look healthy and of reddish tinge; yet in fact, it is not so.
He is more prone to different diseases and to sudden death. Since heart attack is a killer disease the world over, every person must have access to general information on heart attack.
Sudden death was not associated with heart attack until towards the beginning of the present century. Till then the terms ‘heart attack’ ‘coronary thrombosis’ or ‘cardiac infarction’ were not in common use, among laymen and doctors alike.
Since then, the graph of deaths due to heart attacks has been showing a steep rise.
The death rate from heart attack in the United States rose from 8 per 100,000 in 1930 to 23 in 1935, to 71 in 1940, to 226 in 1952 and 290 in 1963. There has been a further tremendous increase since then.
In 1985 approximately 1.5 million people suffered heart attacks in the USA, and 35 per cent of them died of it, half of the deaths occurring before the patient could reach the hospital.
An additional 15 to 20 per cent of survivors died in the first year following heart attack. There is virtually an epidemic of heart attacks in the States and some other European countries.
Deaths due to heart attack are not as common in India as in some European countries; yet the incidence is increasing year by year, even though there is a lot of more information about heart attack available.
This increase is real and not due to better diagnosis. This is certainly going to increase further, since the life span of the people is increasing.
Hence there are more and more older males who fall in the groups, among whom heart attacks are common.
Young or old ?
A few decades ago, coronary heart disease and subsequent heart attacks were considered as part of the ageing process. This view was essentially based upon the observations that heart attacks occurred mostly in people in the older age groups.
Increasing incidence of the disease and its occurrence in younger people, even below 40 years of age, casts doubts upon the ageing process being the cause of the condition.
Heart attacks are due to coronary atherosclerosis (narrowing of the coronary arteries), which process starts at a much younger age. This finding is based upon the study of the coronary and other arteries of the younger people who died either in the wars, or as result of accidents.
Among American soldiers (average age 22 years) killed in action in the Korean War, 77 per cent were reported to have gross pathological evidence of atherosclerosis. Ten per cent exhibited for advanced disease.
Similar findings have been reported from India as well. In Lucknow in 1969, in a study based upon 300 medico legal post-mortems, it was found that atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries was two and half times more prevalent in the males than the females.
Males were completely free from it in the first two, and females in the first three decades. Over the decades, both the sexes were equally and progressively affected.
Heart attacks are more common in males than in females, the ratio in many studies being about 5 to 1. Males between 40 and 60 years of age have the maximum incidence. The incidence of heart attacks in females is rising.
In the Western countries, the incidence of heart attacks is said to be more in males belonging to higher income groups. But in India, they occur equally among the rich as well as the poor. It is important to know the symptoms of heart attack and the various causes of heart attack.
In a study in Bihar in 1971, it was reported that 40.8 per cent of all heart attacks occurred among low income groups which included farmers and manual workers.
In Gujarat in 1968, the occurrence of heart attacks occupation wise was reported as follows; executives, professionals 28 per cent; clerks, teachers 23.5 per cent; manual workers 25.5 per cent; sedentary workers, shopkeepers 15.5 per cent; the retired people 7.5 per cent.
Rural or urban ?
In India, heart attacks occur equally among the rural population as among the urban, with a difference, however, that among rural people, on an average, the attacks occur in the older age group as compared to the urban.
This observation is contrary to the impression created by newspaper reports that heart attacks occur more commonly among urban people. The general information on heart attack is a guide to prevention of heart attack.
Coronary atherosclerosis starts much earlier in life; it progresses year by year, decade by decade and remains undetected, un manifested, until it produces heart attacks.
The main factors that accelerate coronary artery narrowing are:
Excess of fats in the blood
Excess of cholesterol in the blood
High blood pressure
Other factors are male sex, family history, physical inactivity and mental stress.