You have never heard of an acute coronary syndrome. But what about heart attack, or unstable angina? Those well-known conditions are both acute coronary syndromes, an umbrella term for situations where the blood supplied to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked.
“This is an absolute medical emergency.
- Chest pain (angina) that feels like burning, pressure or tightness and lasts several minutes or longer
- Pain elsewhere in the body, such as the left upper arm or jaw (referred pain)
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Sudden, heavy sweating (diaphoresis)
Lifestyle and Diet
You can take steps to prevent acute coronary syndrome or improve your symptoms.
Don’t smoke. If you smoke, the most important thing you can do to improve your heart’s health is to stop. Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble with quitting.
Eat a heart-healthy diet. Too much saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet can narrow arteries to your heart. Follow the advice of your doctor and dietitian on eating a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of whole grains, lean meat, low-fat dairy, and fruits and vegetables. Also, limit the salt in your diet. Eating too much salt and saturated or trans fats will increase your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps improve heart muscle function and keeps blood flowing through your arteries. It can also reduce your risk of acute coronary syndrome by helping you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and control diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous. For example, walking 30 minutes a day five days a week can improve your health.
Check your cholesterol. Have your blood cholesterol levels checked regularly, through a blood test at your doctor’s office. If your cholesterol levels are undesirably high, your doctor can prescribe changes to your diet and medications to help lower the numbers and protect your cardiovascular health. It’s recommended that overall cholesterol levels be below 200 mg/dL, and that high density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol (HDL) levels be above 40 mg/dL for men and above 50 mg/dL for women. Recommended LDL cholesterol levels depend on your heart disease risk. For those with a low risk of heart disease, LDL cholesterol should be below 130 mg/dL. In people with a moderate risk, a level of less than 100 mg/dL is recommended. For those with a high risk of heart disease, including people who’ve already had a heart attack or who have diabetes, it’s recommended that LDL levels be below 70 mg/dL.
Control your blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years. Your doctor may recommend more frequent checks if you have high blood pressure or a history of heart disease. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
Manage stress. To reduce your risk of a heart attack, reduce stress in your day-to-day activities. Rethink workaholic habits and find healthy ways to minimize or deal with stressful events in your life.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Drinking more than one to two alcoholic drinks a day raises blood pressure, so cut back on your drinking if necessary. From a heart-healthy standpoint, one to two drinks daily is fine for men, and women can have one alcoholic beverage a day. One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 4 ounces (118 mL) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of an 80-proof liquor.
By Smriti Jha