Heart Attack: Everything You Need to Know

heart attack

The blood supply that normally nourishes your heart, when cut out of oxygen can result in a Heart Attack.

This can cause the muscle of your heart to die, and medically it is referred to as Myocardial Infractions.

A heart attack is a serious medical condition thus, one should immediately consult the doctor or cardiologist as soon as they notice the warning signs.

Most often, people report chest pain, sweating, nausea, and breathing difficulties.

However, for some, it can be sudden without any warning signs.

It is important to note that heart attack is different from cardiac arrest, as, during the latter one, the heart stops working completely.

But both are medical emergencies and without treatment, they can lead to cardiac arrest.

This article sums up how a heart attack happens, its treatment, and how to prevent it.

Causes of a Heart Attack

The arteries in your circulatory system are responsible for carrying the oxygenated blood from the heart.

This oxygenated blood travels throughout your body to provide oxygen to every cell.

However, when one of the arteries near your heart blocks, it can cause a heart attack.

This can also result from coronary heart disease. This is like a plaque, made of cholesterol and other substances that collect in your arteries.

Thus, this plaque narrows down the arteries, and over time, it can hinder the flow of blood. causes of heart attack

Blood clots or torn blood vessels can also cause a heart attack, however, in certain cases, it can also lead to a stroke.

High blood pressure or hypertension and the death of cells of your heart can also lead to permanent damage.

This can cause partial or complete blockage of coronary artery disease and is of 2 types:

  1. ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI)
  2. Non-ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (NSTEMI)

The restriction of oxygenated blood to arteries and contractions can turn into an on and off mechanism thus, cutting the supply of blood to the heart. This is called Ischemia.

Warning Signs of Heart Attack

A heart attack can be life-threatening, thus, you should understand a few warning signs and symptoms of it for your heart health.

When knowing them, you can call emergency service at 911 or 988. The warning signs are chest pain, feeling of tightness in the chest, heartburn, or indigestion.

Pain in the arms, neck, or jaw, nausea, and even vomiting, shortness of breath, and feeling dizzy are also some warning signs.

warning signs of heart attackOther symptoms include anxiety that is similar to a panic attack and coughing or wheezing in case there is a fluid build-up in your lungs.

The following may also develop in some cases:

  1. Cardiogenic shock: In this condition, there is a sudden blood pressure drop as the heart is unable to supply enough blood to the whole body.
  2. Hypoxemia: This involves low levels of oxygen in the blood
  3. Pulmonary Edema: Fluid accumulation in and around lungs.

Diagnosis of a Heart Attack

The diagnosis of a heart attack involves your doctor or cardiologist asking about the signs and symptoms you may be experiencing.

While making a diagnosis, your doctor will also consider your age, overall health, medical history, and family history.

Your doctor or cardiologist will also order the following tests:

Image tests like a CT scan or echocardiograms which are sound waves or ultrasounds create images of your moving heart.

diagnosis This test shows the chambers of your heart and valves pumping blood. Moreover, it can help identify whether there is damage to your heart or not.

Electrocardiography helps to measure the electrical activity of your heart.

This test records electrical signals as they travel through your heart.

Your doctor will attach sticky patches or electrodes to your chest and limbs. Signals are recorded as waves displayed on a monitor or printed on paper.

Blood tests to confirm a heart attack and cardiac catheterization or angiogram that help your doctor to examine the insides of your heart.

Treatment Options

At first, when you observe the signs and symptoms you should call 911 or 988. A heart attack is a serious medical condition and you should seek immediate medical attention.

If you delay the treatment, it can lead to severe complications and can be life-threatening.

The treatment includes:

  • medications
  • medical surgery

Let’s discuss them as follows:

Medications

There are certain medications your doctor or cardiologist will prescribe if you had a heart attack or you have other heart-related conditions.

These will help to reduce the chances of having a heart attack. These are:

Antiplatelet Agents: This medication helps to prevent the formation of new clots and keep the existing ones from getting large.

Thrombolytics: Also called Clotbusters, they help to dissolve a blood clot that is blocking blood flow to your heart.

medicationsAsprin: It reduces blood clotting and helps to maintain blood flow through the narrowed artery.

Beta-Blockers: These medications help to relax your heart muscle, slow your heartbeat and decrease blood pressure.

Moreover, they limit the amount of heart muscle damage and also prevent heart attacks in the future.

Blood Thinning Medications: Medications like heparin makes your blood less sticky thus inhibits the formation of clots.

Other medications include ACE inhibitors, Statins, Nitroglycerin, Pain relievers, etc.

Medical Surgery

In case you undergo a heart attack, your doctor or cardiologist will recommend a surgical or non-surgical procedure.

These procedures help to relieve pain and prevent another heart attack.

Common procedures are:

Angioplasty: It opens the blocked artery by using a balloon or by removing the plaque buildup.

Stent: It is a wire mesh tube that your doctor will insert into the artery to keep it open after angioplasty.

Pacemaker: A device that your doctor implants under your skin and helps to maintain a normal rhythm of your heart.

pacemakerHeart Valve Surgery: In this, the leaky vales are replaced to help your heart pump blood.

Bypass Surgery: In this surgery, your doctor reroutes the blood around the blockage.

Heart Transplant: In severe cases, your doctor will perform a heart transplant.

This is because of the permanent tissue death to most of the heart.

Recovery

Recovering from a heart attack can take time and also depends on the severity of the heart attack and other symptoms.

Some factors are:

Leaving a sedentary lifestyle is possible with the help of a healthcare professional providing your suitable activity plan.

Going back to work solely depends on the severity of your heart attack and the nature of your job.

Driving permission also varies from person to person.

Cardiac rehabilitation involves the restoration of health and prevention of another heart attack.

Sex: In most cases,  you resume sexual activity after 4–6 weeks.

However, erectile dysfunction can result from medication use, but treatment can help resolve this.

Most of the time, people find it hard to recover from a heart attack, thus, counseling, support groups, and treatment can help you overcome it.

Learn more about Cardiac Arrest here.

Risk Factors

According to AHA, the American Heart Association the following can increase your chances of a heart attack.

These are older age, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes, low activity levels, and smoking.

Moreover, high consumption of alcohol, stress, added sugars, and diets high in processed food can cause it.

Additionally, those with high blood pressure and a history of heart disease have an increased risk of a heart attack.

Thus, keeping in view the above reduces your risk of a heart attack.

Complications

There are certain complications that can form due to a heart attack.

When you undergo a heart attack, it disrupts the normal rhythm of the heart. These are called Arrhythmias.

Moreover, when the heart stops getting blood supply, some of the heart tissue can die. thus, it weakens your heart and can cause life-threatening conditions like heart failure.

Heart attack can also affect your heart valves and cause leaks.

The time it takes to receive treatment and the area of damage will determine the long-term effects on your heart.

How to Prevent It?

You can take different steps to prevent a heart attack and these include:

  1. healthy diet
  2. regular exercise
  3. managing factors that can potentially lead to a heart attack like diabetes, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc
  4. avoid alcohol
  5. maintain a good body weight
  6. avoid stress

Moreover, knowing the signs and symptoms can help you get immediate treatment and thus increases the chances of positive outcomes.

Final Thoughts

Heart attack can be dangerous and even life-threatening if you don’t seek immediate medical attention. It is because of the blockage of arteries in your body and can often lead to other complications.

Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, avoiding smoking and alcohol are some factors that can prevent heart diseases from developing in your body, however, your age, increasing or uncontrolled blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, overweight, and other factors can lead to a heart attack.

As an adult or even at old age you should take preventive measures to prevent a heart attack. Knowing the warning signs like chest pain, pain in other parts of the body, and difficulty in breathing is beneficial for everyone as you or someone else can help to get immediate medical attention. Sticking to the treatment plan is important to prevent complications and other issues from developing, thus ensuring healthy and balanced life.

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