A heart attack is one of the most frightening moments in a person’s life. It can remind us of our mortality and often paralyzes us into believing that we should reduce our activity to preserve the heart muscle. But let’s explore a heart attack and why not exercising may cause even more significant problems.
A heart attack occurs when oxygen-rich blood to the heart is limited by the partial or complete occlusion of the supplying artery. This happens due to plaque buildup within that artery, known as atherosclerosis. Like any other muscle in the body, when the blood flow is interrupted, the tissue supplied by that blood vessel begins to die. The longer the heart remains without its blood supply, the greater the damage. Fortunately, due to better public awareness of heart attacks and faster interventions, the number of people surviving a heart attack has increased over the years.
Most of us know someone who has needed an angioplasty and lives with one or more stents in their arteries. Many of us also know people who have needed a heart bypass or CABG. Ultimately, the reason for either procedure is the buildup of plaque in the arteries that has slowly narrowed them to the point where the heart is not receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. If left untreated, this condition known as atherosclerosis can lead to significant chest pain and a heart attack.
But for those of us that have spent the best part of our lives sitting on the couch and eating poorly, is there any hope? Is there any way that we can avoid the eventuality of requiring a procedure to unclog or bypass our arteries? The short answer is “sort of.”