A hospital in Philadelphia has begun to implement an innovative new approach to fighting heart attacks, one doctors hope will minimize permanent damage to the heart and reduce fatalities and the risk of future heart attacks. The standard procedure is to prioritize restoring blood flow to the heart, generally by opening an artery. At Temple University Medical Center, doctors instead use a temporary pump to do the work of the heart. This keeps the patient alive while allowing the heart to rest and repair itself, like turning off the water before fixing the sink. Hospital staff says this has lead to a 50 percent reduction in heart damage.
Another thing that helps people who have heart problems is maintaining a positive outlook. In a study, people with heart disease who were generally happy had a lower risk of death over five years than gloomier patients. Researchers say it isn’t especially the happiness itself that leads to the improved outcomes. Rather, they say, happy people are more likely to lead active lives and get sufficient exercise to keep their heart problems under control. The same study found a direct statistical link between positive affect and exercising regularly, at least once a week; exercise, in turn, cut the risk of death in half.
In addition to exercise and keeping yourself cheerful, you can improve your odds by eating right, quitting smoking, reducing stress in your life, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control. If you have diabetes, it’s important to make sure that’s properly managed as well. If you’re at risk for a heart attack—because you’re a man over 45 or a woman over 55, you have a family history of heart disease, you’ve had a heart attack already or preeclampsia during pregnancy, you’re obese, or any other risk factor—there are medications you can take to help protect your heart.
If you do have symptoms of a heart attack, call a doctor immediately, Symptoms to look for are chest pain that radiates down the left arm and sometimes spreads to the neck or jaw, anxiety, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fatigue, nausea or heartburn, poor sleeping, or a cold sweat. Not every heart attack will show all these symptoms, particularly chest pain, but most have some of them.