Fearing a Heart Attack

The health anxiety surrounding a heart attack can be overwhelming. Every little pain or twinge makes you wonder if your heart is about to give out. The reality is that your heart is much more resilient than you might think. Fearing a heart attack is definitely worth discussing but often not as dangerous as you think.

Heart Attacks Aren’t Always Fatal

Having seen many patients in the urgent care and emergency room, they present with chest pains. I order an EKG and see they have a heart attack or perhaps had one recently.

Unfortunately, a little under 50% of adults might have a fatal heart attack, but symptoms are often quite telling.

They might have sudden fatigue or nausea or chest pains or shortness of breath with certain actions. But of course, there are cases where the plaque breaks off suddenly without previous underlying coronary artery stenosis.

The Fear of a Heart Attack

Fearing a heart attack – the fear itself – is often detrimental. And we fear it because we worry that if we don’t fear a heart attack, we may not do anything about it.

The hearty attacks which kill you won’t have any control over. At least not the heart attack (myocardial infarction) itself. But you can affect the chance of a heart attack by living a “heart healthy” life.

The anxiety and stress of fearing a heart attack have little value. It adds little to your decision matrix and keeps you in a negative loop.

Preventing a Heart Attack

It’s never too late to start working on your heart health. I’m not a fan of terms like a “heart-healthy” diet or lifestyle because they reduce the problem to a few individual actions.

The body and the mind are connected even if we wish they weren’t. The outlook and expectations you have feed back into your cellular health, down to the last cardiac myocyte.

To prevent a heart attack, the key factors are:

  1. stress
  2. sleep
  3. diet
  4. inflammation
  5. activity
  6. individual risks
  7. environment

Your individual risk might be the genetic factors predisposing you to your particular cardiovascular condition.

Your environment may not be conducive to your optimal heart health, etc.

When the Fear Comes

You’re sitting somewhere or coming back from the gym and feeling off. You feel something in your chest, and your heart rate goes up. You think you’re damaging your heart or having a heart attack causing you to sweat.

Everything spirals down quickly, and you fear the worst.

A deep breath at this point is the best medicine. Sit down, just be present. Feel what’s going on in the chest. Feel what’s going through your head.

Sit with it without trying to change it. They call this mindset a mindful approach to anxiety or stress, or any feeling. It works because you don’t try to take full control of the situation.

If your gut tells you that you should call 911, then that’s what you’ll do. If you feel it could be benign, you can decide to wait.

It feels good to have faith in your instincts and your body.

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