Have you ever wondered how your body knows when to go to sleep, when to wake up and how much energy to exert during the day? Your internal clock is part of what’s called your circadian rhythm. To pull you out of sleep, your circadian rhythm sends hormones surging through your body.
Meechai Tessalee, MD, FACC, FSCAI, an interventional cardiologist with Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, says stressful events that increase hormone levels can activate the nervous system. As a result, plaque can become dislodged in the arteries, which could cause a heart attack. This may be one reason heart attacks are more common early in the day.
What is happening to your body
If you have healthy arteries, hormones shouldn’t worry you. But if there’s too much plaque built up in your coronary arteries, it could break apart, creating a blood clot, which could restrict blood and oxygen to the heart. As a reaction, the heart may beat abnormally fast or quiver.
Watch out for the following signs:
- Chest pain – gripping, pressure-like sensations that last for several minutes
- Pain radiating up the jaw or neck and down the left arm
- Shortness of breath
- Profuse sweating
- Abdominal pain
If you experience these symptoms, Dr. Tessalee recommends calling 9-1-1, then chewing an aspirin to help thin the blood while you’re in route to the emergency department.
Control what you can
To help guard against plaque buildup, eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish, exercise at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week, maintain a healthy weight with a BMI below 25 and quit smoking.
Annual screenings and check ups are important for everyone, but especially so for those with a strong family history of heart attack. High cholesterol and blood pressure are two conditions that, if not properly managed, can lead to heart disease. Both should be measured regularly.
If you are having chest pain, an exercise stress test can help diagnose coronary artery disease, causes of chest pain and help predict a heart attack. “The important thing is to not ignore chest pain,” Dr. Tessalee says. “Early interventions can help prevent a heart attack.”
Working together for the best results
At Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, patients benefit from having a medical team that is like family. Dr. Tessalee is proud that the hospital is committed to making the cardiac cath lab, where cardiac interventions are performed, the best in the area. “When we are together in the cath lab, we function like clockwork,” Dr. Tessalee says. “When procedures go smoothly, it lends to better patient results.” For example, national door-to-balloon times are recommended to be 90 minutes or less, which is the time a patient arrives in the ER to their artery being opened. “Because our team is so effective, we consistently achieve this standard and at times, exceed this goal,” he says.
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