Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is on the rise worldwide including India especially among the young people. We may remember the recent tragic deaths of KK, the Bollywood music legend; Raju Srivastava, the standup comedian; and the near-death of Christian Eriksen, the Danish Soccer star.
Today, let’s discuss the issues of SCA, other cardiac ailments, and tips for maintaining a good heart health.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
Cardiac arrest and heart attack are two different things. In the former, there is abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness while in the latter, a coronary artery gets blocked and your heart muscles don’t get enough blood supply to function properly. A sudden cardiac arrest can lead to death if not treated immediately.
In SCA, the electrical system responsible for the regular heart beat gets jammed, causing the heart to beat too quickly. This causes the heart to quiver, losing its ability to pump blood efficiently or the heart simply stops beating, leading to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) (HT, Oct. 17, 2022).
Besides SCA, other heart ailments include heart attack, cardiomyopathy, broken heart syndrome and coronary artery disease (CAD) etc.
Symptoms of SCA
These include chest pain or discomfort, palpitations, rapid heartbeats, shortness of breath, fainting, light-headedness, and unusual fatigue. According to Dr P K Hazra, AMRI Hospitals, Kolkata, the risk factors for SCA include previous history of heart attack, family history of heart illness, comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, smoking, alcohol abuse, consumption of junk food, excessive exercise, chronic anxiety and obesity etc.
Diet and Heart Health
Junk food such as pizza and burgers are bad for heart as they contain lot of unhealthy fats. Processed and packaged foods, cold drinks, ready-made fruit juices and sugary drinks are also bad. Red meat such as mutton or beef (high LDL content) must be avoided to maintain heart health. Deep fired food is also bad as it is rich in trans fat (HT, Oct. 19, 2022).
Generally fish especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart. Fats found in olive, soybean, nuts, canola oil, and seafood are usually hood for the heart.
Other Precipitating Factors
Certain other factors can precipitate a heart attack or cardiac arrest. These include high levels of blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol. Regular monitoring of these parameters is recommended to preclude any chance of developing heart disorders.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people consume:
- Rich variety of fruits & vegetables
- Whole grains e.g., oatmeal
- Seafood & plant proteins
- Nontropical oils e.g., olive or avocado oil
- Minimally processed foods
- No added sugars
- Limited salt
- Limited alcohol (Medical News Today, Sept. 26, 2022).
A Mediterranean-type diet is ideal for maintaining good heart health (this type of diet has been discussed in an earlier column).
Another heart-friendly diet is DASH diet which we shall discuss in a future column.
Exercise and Heart
Physical activity plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy heart; a 2019 report in Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine showed that moderate exercise improves cardiovascular function in people who have had heart failure.
Moderate exercise includes brisk walking, water aerobics, cycling, playing tennis or mowing lawns etc.
Lifestyle Changes & Heart
Besides good food and exercise, some lifestyle changes can improve heart health. The AHA recommends quitting smoking, reducing stress and limiting alcohol consumption.
Sleep and Heart Health
An adequate amount of sleep; good and sound sleep; not sleeping too late, going to bed early; and rising early has also been shown to link intimately with good heart health.