Last of three parts
Because of better care, most heart-attack victims survive today. There are improved tests, drugs and surgery to defend against heart attack.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) records the heart’s electrical activity. This test is done because injured heart muscle generates abnormal impulses. If the ECG picks up abnormalities, physicians will know that a patient has had a heart attack or that one may be in progress. If you have a heart attack, there are heart enzymes that leak slowly into your blood. Physicians draw blood to test for the enzymes.
Second of three parts
A blood clot in a narrowed coronary artery is the usual cause of a heart attack. The clogged artery prevents oxygenated blood from nourishing the heart. This can lead to pain, the death of heart cells, scar tissue and fatal arrythmias. A variety of causes leads to the narrowing of arteries, which is called “atherosclerosis.” This, in turn, increases the likelihood of a heart attack. Here are some of the leading causes of heart attacks:
First of three parts
Q. If you think you’re having a heart attack, should you take aspirin?
A blood clot in a coronary artery narrowed by cholesterol and other substances is the usual cause of a heart attack. Aspirin keeps blood moving through constricted arteries. Paramedics may give aspirin when they respond to an emergency to treat a heart-attack victim.
Aspirin reduces mortality from heart attacks. Taking aspirin is a subject you should discuss with your doctor. Aspirin could hurt you if your symptoms are caused by a different health problem.
Q. I’m a 61-year-old woman and I’ve been experiencing some incontinence lately. A friend told me there are exercises I can do to help the situation. Do you know what she’s talking about?
First, talk to your doctor about the incontinence. Don’t begin any exercise program without a check-up.
Your friend is probably referring to “Kegel exercises,” which were developed 60 years ago by Dr. Arnold Kegel to control incontinence in women after childbirth. These exercises are now recommended for women and men who experience urinary or fecal incontinence.
Q. I watched a man fall unconscious on the sidewalk. A woman rushed up and started to do CPR on him and, later, I heard she may have saved his life. It made me sign up for a CPR course. You should tell your readers to take one of these courses.
If you would like to learn CPR, contact the American Heart Association at americanheart.org. Another CPR resource is the American Red Cross at redcross.org. Or, you can try a local hospital.
Q. I seem to get diarrhea more often now than I used to when I was younger. Any ideas why?
Before I offer you some general information about diarrhea, I urge you to see a doctor for a diagnosis. As I tell everyone who writes to me, I’m a journalist, not a physician.
Diarrhea is caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, certain foods, medicines and diseases. Diarrhea is a common malady that usually lasts a day or two and goes away without treatment. In the United States, it’s second only to respiratory infections in reported illnesses.
Q. My husband is getting a drinker’s nose. He reminds me of W.C. Fields. But my husband doesn’t really drink more than an occasional beer. I don’t get it.
W.C. Fields, the vaudevillian and comedic actor in early films, was known to hoist more than an occasional beer. But Fields got his red, bumpy nose from rosacea, not alcohol. Former President Bill Clinton has rosacea and so did the late financier J.P. Morgan.
In the previous “Healthy Geezer” column, we discussed pacemakers. In this column, we’ll continue on the general topic of heart regulation with information about implantable cardioverter-defibrillators.
An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is like a pacemaker.
A pacemaker and an ICD are battery-powered devices installed in the chest to deliver electrical impulses to the heart. In general, a pacemaker is used when the heart beats too slowly. An ICD is used when the heart beats too quickly.
Q. Will sex mess up my pacemaker?
Only if powerful magnets are involved. Seriously, your pacemaker is safe. Modern pacemakers are stable devices. But there are still some precautions you should take if you’ve had one of these miraculous gizmos implanted in your chest.
There could be some problems to be aware of. Power machines are dangerous. Stand at least two feet away from arc-welding equipment, high-voltage transformers and motor-generator systems.
Q. My doctor says it’s time for a colonoscopy. Please tell me I shouldn’t worry about this exam.
You definitely shouldn’t worry. I’ve had the three major tests for colon cancer: sigmoidoscopy (very uncomfortable), barium enema (a nightmare) and colonoscopy.
I was given anesthesia for the colonoscopy and all I recall is getting on the examining table, feeling like I had a cocktail, and waking up in recovery as rested as if I had a late-afternoon nap on the beach.