According to the World Health Organization ( WHO ), every year, around 12 million people die of myocardial infarction or stroke worldwide. It is one of the most common causes of mortality on the entire planet.
Despite being a very frequent and dangerous pathology, 80% of myocardial infarctions are preventable. How can they be avoided, then? Find out in this article.
What is myocardial infarction?
For the heart to pump blood and send it to the rest of the body, it needs energy and nutrients. For this, like other organs, it has a series of blood vessels called coronaries, which are responsible for transporting the necessary blood to the heart cells or cardiomyocytes.
When these coronary vessels, for whatever reason, become blocked, the blood does not reach the heart. The cells run out of oxygen and nutrients, and this causes death. Therefore, a myocardial infarction is the death of a part of the heart because of a lack of blood supply.
Why are the coronary vessels clogged?
The most frequent cause of occlusion or obstruction of these vessels is the formation of fat plugs, which is known in a technical name as atheroma plaques. As we age, the arteries become thicker and less elastic, and may even become calcified. This natural process of ageing of the arteries is called arteriosclerosis.
In contrast, we have atherosclerosis, which is a pathological process. It is based on the formation of atheroma plaques in large arteries, especially the aorta, coronary arteries, carotid arteries, iliac and femoral arteries. These atheroma plaques develop progressively. It starts with the deposition and accumulation of LDL cholesterol ( bad cholesterol ).
But this is not that it happens out of nowhere, but that the wall usually has an injury before, caused by genetic and environmental factors. The pathological plaque sits on this lesion. The LDL causes the artery walls to swell and attract macrophages, cells of the organism defence.
To try to stop the inflammation and what is damaging the arteries, macrophages will ingest bad cholesterol. However, instead of fixing the problem, they will become foam cells, that is, cells full of fat that, when dying, leave LDL free.
The foam cells will release signals that will promote the transformation of the arterial smooth muscle cells into making a shell of collagen around this fat nucleus, making it larger and larger. When blood passes through the damaged wall, it deposits fibrin and platelets to fix it. However, they further promote the growth of atheroma plaque.
What are the risk sectors in myocardial infarction?
Different studies reveal that certain factors increase the probability of having a heart attack. In other words, they are risk factors. The three most relevant are the following:
- Snuff consumption: the smoke of the snuff contains different substances harmful to the lungs, but also for blood vessels and heart.
- The unhealthy diet: when a person consumes a lot of trans fats, sugars and salt, his risk of suffering diseases like hypertension and diabetes increases, which damage the coronary vessels.
- Physical inactivity: the sedentary lifestyle is behind the lack of proper blood circulation, firmly associating cardiovascular risk.
On the other hand, some diseases promote the risk of having a heart attack. If you have more than one of these conditions at the same time, your arteries are more likely to be damaged. Here we can mention high blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia and diabetes.
The blood pressure is the force exerted by blood against the walls of the vessels. At higher tension, the arterial walls will suffer more damage, stimulating the deposit of LDL cholesterol.
Normal blood pressure values are considered to be those that do not exceed 120 millimetres of mercury in systole, nor 80 millimetres of mercury in diastole. Variation is closely linked to lifestyle and diet. Increases in the salt intake or sedentary lifestyle lead to increases that can become chronic.
High blood sugar or diabetes
In a 2008 study, people with diabetes were found to develop atherosclerosis faster than non-diabetics. This is explained by the fact that high blood glucose activates factors that promote the mobilization of macrophages. Besides, it increases the oxidation and inflammation of the arterial walls.
On the other hand, diabetes is not only the increase in blood sugar but also increases insulin resistance, lipid accumulation and loss of regulatory function of arterial cells. Thus, an inflammatory environment is performed.
High lipid concentration or hypercholesterolemia
The blood carries the bad lipids LDL through proteins. The destination of the LDL protein is the tissues and the various organs for its use. When there is an excess of them, they remain in the arteries.
Lowering cholesterol is a difficult task for some people. Factors that are related not only to diet but also to physical activity, genetics and liver metabolism are involved. Current eating styles do not favour lowering of lipids, since fast food and saturated with fats is the most common.
Tips to prevent myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction is not an affectation that occurs randomly but has a lot to do with our way of life. Therefore, we will give you a series of tips to prevent it, which are the following:
- If you smoke or use tobacco in any other way, it would be best if you quit. If you can’t do it alone, you have different aids at your disposal. You can contact your GP for prescription smoking cessation drugs.
- You must spend at least 30 minutes a day doing physical activity, especially aerobic exercises such as swimming, walking, cycling, and even doing housework.
- Diet must be balanced. Besides, the consumption of salt, fats and sugars must be reduced.
- Counselling for people at high risk of heart attack is an essential aspect of stopping heart attacks. That is, if you have a high weight, hypertension, diabetes or high blood lipids, you should go to the GP to offer you the best possible treatment.