Heart attacks happen when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked, a mechanism commonly triggered by a build-up of fat, cholesterol and other substances, which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart. This process does not happen overnight, rather it is the accumulation of unhealthy lifestyle decisions taken over a period of time. As a result, there is ample opportunity to avert the risk of having a heart attack.
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It is vital to heed the warning signs that foreshadow a heart attack so you can take steps to prevent it.
While most people would associate heart attack signs with chest pain, there are a surprising number of symptoms that show up in different places in the body.
For example, people who suffer from severe eczema may be at a greater risk of having a heart attack, according to a study published in the BMJ.
Eczema is a common skin condition that is characterised by itchy and inflamed patches of skin.
As the NHS explains, some people only have small patches of dry skin, but others may experience more severe symptoms such as widespread inflamed skin all over the body.
People with more severe forms may also experience skin that cracks and oozes, according to Harvard Health.
According to the research, people that experience these severe symptoms of eczema are disproportionately at risk of having a heart attack.
For the study, researchers analysed data from more than 385,000 adults with eczema, which was classified as mild, moderate, or severe.
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Each was matched with up to five people of similar age and sex who didn’t have eczema.
After a five-year follow-up, the researchers found that people with severe eczema had a 40 percent to 50 percent increased risk of heart attack, atrial fibrillation, and death from heart disease, as well as a 20 percent higher risk of stroke.
The risks remained even after the researchers accounted for confounding factors such as weight, smoking, and alcohol use.
In light of the findings, the study authors suggested that people with severe eczema should be screened for risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.
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What to do if you are at risk
One of the most important preventative measures if you are at risk of having a heart attack is to improve your diet.
This means shunning high-fat foods because these will cause more fatty plaques, called LDL cholesterol, to build up in your arteries.
The worst culprits are:
- Fried foods
- Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- Ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
- Hard cheese
- Cakes and biscuits
- Foods that contain coconut or palm oil
Instead you should increase your intake of a type of fat called unsaturated fats.
Good sources of unsaturated fats include oily fish, nuts and seeds.
An easy way to ensure you are getting enough unsaturated fat in your diet is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet.
Being active and doing regular exercise will also reduce your heart attack risk by lowering your blood pressure.
Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, a key preventative measure in reducing cardiovascular complications.
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