Heart Attack is a medical emergency. Before we start digging deeper let us get used to the following Terms/definitions.

Coronary Artery Disease(CAD): Arteries that feed the heart, are called coronary arteries. A type of heart disease due to plaque build-up in the coronary arteries is known as coronary artery disease(CAD)

Plaque: An accumulation of cholesterol deposits in an artery

Atherosclerosis: Narrowing of arteries due to plaque build-up

Cholesterol: a waxy substance found in all body tissues. High levels of cholesterol circulating in the body could lead to heart attacks


Most Heart Attacks are preventable


Heart Attack occurs when an artery supplying your heart with blood and oxygen becomes blocked.



The symptoms of a heart attack do vary. Classical symptoms include:

Pain in the centre or left side of the chest, lasting several minutes, that comes and goes..

The pain may feel like squeezing, pressure, tightness, heaviness, cramping, burning, aching sensation.

The pain may radiate to the neck, jaws, shoulders, upper back, and upper Arms

A heart attack may present with symptoms, other than chest pain, especially in the older, female, and diabetics. The symptoms may be Unexplained Indigestion, Belching, Upper Belly pain.


Associated Symptoms:

Shortness of breath, Cough

Nausea or Vomiting,

Cold sweats

Palpitations, irregular pulse

Feeling weak,

Unusual tiredness,

Lightheaded, or





Eat more of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods

West Africa has an abundant supply of healthy foods. Let us discuss a few of the controversial staple foods

Cassava: Cooked cassava is Rich in Fiber, Proteins, minerals and Saponins. The saponins and fibers, lower unhealthy cholesterol by binding to bile salts and thus, prevent absorption of dietary cholesterol from the intestines. Cassava reduces Bad cholesterol levels

Caution: Do not eat Raw cassava tubers and Raw cassava leaves. They need to be boiled, or grated and soaked to remove the low levels of cyanides (linamarin and lotaustralin) in them.

The finished products of cassava: Gari, Fufu are very safe for consumption, Other Tubers such as Yams, Cocoyam, Sweet potato are very healthy foods as well. Plantain, Bananas are both healthy foods

Avoid frying these foods, instead, cook and roast them.

Add vegetable oil to stew without frying the oil.

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.


some sources of saturated fats

Sources of saturated fats:

  • Pork,
  • Lamb,
  • Goat,
  • Beef
  • Cheese and
  • Butter
  • Palm Oil and Palm kernel oil, Coconut oil
  • Palm oil is 50% saturated, palm kernel oil and coconut oil have 85% saturated fat content. The higher the fat content in these oils, the more solid, they become at room temperature. Since palm oil is semisolid at room temperature, they should be preferred to palm kernel and coconut oils.

Saturated fats have been known to cause elevation of LDL-Cholesterol. However, research upon research has shown that Palm oil does not increase LDL-Cholesterol levels, unless one consumes lots of animal meat, with the oil. Actually, studies have confirmed that total and LDL-cholesterol are lower in people who follow palm oil-rich diet than those who consume a diet high in trans and animal fats.

Palm oil has Vitamin A and E, which are great for Eye and Brain health

PEANUTS/GROUNDNUTS, ALMONDS and NUTS in general, are great for the heart.


Limiting dietary salt intake lowers blood pressure It is recommended, no more than 1.5G of dietary salt per day. No Maggi cubes (1 Cube has 62.5G salt), No Koobi, they have too much salt.

Salt is used as preservatives in Canned foods, avoid canned foods, if you can. One can also drain and wash the foods with water, before preparing them.

Chose low sodium foods. When reading food labels, low sodium is defined as 140mg sodium per serving.


Being overweight increases the risk for heart diseases.

The surest way to know if you have a healthy weight is to measure your abdominal circumference, at the level of the umbilicus.

You can then, determine your abdominal circumference to height ratio.

How to maintain a healthy weight

  • Eat Slowly. When you eat fast, you may not feel full early, and you rather tend to overeat. The practice is to chew your food, 25 times before you swallow that food
  • Cut out snacks
  •  Avoid refined carbohydrates like white rice, potato, white bread. Instead, go for high fibre whole grains and legumes. They are digested slowly and they have a low glycemic index


Regular physical activities prevent heart diseases

Adults should get a minimum of 30 minutes per day for exercise, 5 days per week; children do twice as much, and more.

Exercises include fast walk, running, jogging, jump ropes and any other aerobic exercises.


Stop smoking if you do; Do not start smoking, if you do not.

Quitting smoking reduces the risk for heart diseases


Avoid drinking too much alcohol as this leads to hypertension and heart diseases. No more than 2 drinks/day for men, and no more 1 drink/day for women.

Take cholesterol medications when your bad cholesterol levels are high

In summary, Heart Attacks could be prevented and avoided if one chooses healthy diets and leads a healthy lifestyle, and promptly control disease states with medications. The choice is yours

Dr Alex k Sarkodie

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