Third age: Heart failure signs not always dramatic

A MONTH ago today, actor James Gandolfini, best known for his role as Mafia boss, Tony Soprano, was found lying on his hotel bathroom floor, in Italy, by his 13-year-old son, Michael. He had suffered a fatal heart attack, aged 51.

Third age: Heart failure signs not always dramatic

In November 2009, former Westlife member Nicky Byrne’s father, Nicky senior, below, also died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was aged 60.

“The symptoms are not always what you think. It does not always have to be a Hollywood heart attack,” said Nicky, in a statement last year.

“That’s what happened to my dad. He wasn’t feeling well, but, like many men, he didn’t want to cause a fuss.

“He had a pain in his lower stomach the day before he passed and now we know he was having a heart attack.’’

This week, the Irish Heart Foundation has reminded men not to “die of embarrassment’’ and to listen to their heart, not their head.

Too often, men put their chest pains down to a bad case of indigestion, rather than seek medical help.

Other heart-attack symptoms include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, light-headedness, weakness and tiredness.

“It is shocking to think that almost six out of 10 people know heart-attack symptoms, but when it comes to getting help, only half of these will arrive by ambulance.

“Every minute lost or delayed in getting treatment increases damage to the heart muscle and may even result in death. The good news is that when caught in time, there are good treatments available for heart attacks.

“Survival rates can be improved by as much as 50% if patients access treatment within one hour of symptoms onset,’’ says Dr Angie Brown, the medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation.

People with heart conditions should also be careful when on holiday, as a change in temperature and diet, and lack of exercise, can exacerbate the symptoms.

Caroline Cullen, communications manager of the Irish Heart Foundation, recommends these six tips to stay safe on holiday.

1. Don’t forget your travel socks, if you are flying. Wearing travel socks, and exercising regularly on the plane, can reduce the risk of clots in the arteries.

2. If you have an internal defibrillator or pacemaker, carry your identification card and take care when walking through the security scanners at the airport.

3. If you are taking medication, stock up on extra supplies for you hand luggage, in case your stowed luggage is delayed. Bring details of the medication you are taking, in case you need medical attention while on holiday.

4. If you are travelling to hot climates, take care, as extreme temperatures can strain your heart. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and sit in the shade between 11am and 3pm to avoid the sun’s most powerful rays.

5. If you are recently recovering from heart surgery or a heart attack, avoid travelling to countries with a high altitude, of over 2,000 metres, as the reduced air-oxygen levels can cause breathlessness or angina.

6. Keep jet lag at bay by going out for exercise to regulate your body clock and increase your endorphins, which will reduce your stress.

* www.irishheart.ie For a free copy of A Man’s guide to Heart Health call 1850 364 364 Heart and Stroke Helpline 1890 432 787.

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