Heart Attack

1 What is Heart Attack?

A heart attack is a condition that a takes place when the flow of blood to the heart is impeded, this is in most cases, contributed to the accumulation of fat, cholesterol and other and other substances which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart.

The interrupted blow flow can be very damaging to the heart muscle or myocardium. A heart attack is also called a myocardial infarction.

These episodes can be fatal, but treatment is available and has improve dramatically over the years.

It is advised for one to immediately call for help if the suspect that they may be having a heart attack.

Heart foods

2 Symptoms

Heart attacks usually have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in the chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back.

Other symptoms may also include:

Heart attack symptoms are not uniform, they may vary from one individual to the next. Some people have mild pain, others have more severe pain. Some people have no symptoms, while for others, the first sign may be sudden cardiac arrest.

However, the more signs and symptoms one has, the greater the likelihood they are experiencing a heart attack. Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but usually most individuals have warning signs and symptoms hours, days or even weeks before any serious developments occur.

The earliest warning may be recurrent chest pain (angina) that's triggered by exertion and relieved by rest. Angina is a condition caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart. A heart attack differs from a condition in which your heart suddenly stops. A heart attack can cause cardiac arrest, but it's not the only cause.

When to see a Doctor

Act immediately. Some individuals wait too long due to failure to recognize important signs and symptoms.

Calling for help is vital if one suspects they are having a heart attack. If there is no access to any medical care services, it is vital to be driven to the nearest hospital by another individual.

Taking nitro-glycerine, if prescribed by a doctor while awaiting emergency help is advised.

Taking aspirin during a heart attack could reduce heart damage, it does this by preventing blood from clotting. Aspirin can interact with other medications, however, never take an aspirin unless it is recommended by a doctor or any medical personnel.

What to do if you see someone having a heart attack

If an unconscious individual is encountered, it is first important to call for emergency medical help. Then CPR can be initiated to keep blood flow.

Push hard and fast on the person's chest — about 100 compressions a minute. It's not necessary to check the person's airway or deliver rescue breaths unless you've been trained in CPR.

3 Causes

A heart attack is caused by the blockage of the coronary arteries.

The process usually happens gradually as some substances such as cholesterol build up in these vessels. This condition is generally known as coronary heart disease and is the primary cause of heart attacks.

During heart attacks this plaques can rupture and spill cholesterol and other substances into the bloodstream. After this rupture, a clot forms at the site. If large enough, the clot can entirely block any blood flow through the artery.

Another cause of a heart attack id a spasm of a coronary artery that completely shuts down blood flow the myocardium or heart muscle. The use of substances such as nicotine-containing substances such as tobacco, illicit drugs like cocaine can cause life-threatening spasms.

A heart attack can also occur in the event of a tear in the heart artery also known as a spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

4 Making a Diagnosis

A heart attack is usually diagnosed in an emergency setting. Any individual making an appointment with a doctor is advised to be prepared before the appointment.

The following information can be very helpful. When the appointment is made, asking if anything can be done in advance is important, such as restrict your diet.

Writing down any symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to coronary artery disease. Also writing down key personal information, including a family history of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes, and recent major stresses or recent life changes.

Making a list of medications, vitamins and supplements that are being taken. Taking another individual along can significantly reduce the probability of a lot of information being forgotten.

Be prepared to discuss any diet and exercise habits. Writing down the questions to ask the doctor if a vital step in trying to get a diagnosis.

Some basic questions to ask a doctor about heart attack prevention include:

  • What tests do I need to determine my current heart health?
  • What foods should I eat or avoid?
  • What's an appropriate level of physical activity?
  • How often should I be screened for heart disease?
  • I have other health conditions.
  • How can I best manage these conditions together?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material that I can have?
  • What websites do you recommend?

One must not hesitate to ask other questions, as well.

The doctor giving the diagnosis is likely to pose a number of questions, including:

  • Have you had symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain or shortness of breath?
  • If so, when did they begin?
  • Do these symptoms persist or come and go?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • If you have chest pain, does it improve with rest?
  • What, if anything, worsens your symptoms?
  • If you have chest pain, does strenuous activity make it worse?
  • Do you have a family history of heart disease or heart attacks?
  • Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol?

It's never too early to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods and becoming more physically active. These are primary lines of defence against having a heart attack.

Ideally, doctors should screen one during regular physical exams for risk factors that can lead to a heart attack. An individual can also be hooked up to a heart monitor and will almost immediately have tests to see if they are having a heart attack. These tests include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG),
  • Blood tests,
  • additional test like chest X-ray,
  • Echocardiogram Coronary catheterization (angiogram),
  • and the doctor may also order a nuclear stress test, which is similar to an exercise stress test, but uses an injected dye and special imaging techniques to produce detailed images of your heart while exercising.

These tests can help determine any long-term treatment. Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to diagnose heart problems, including the extent of damage from heart attacks.

In a cardiac CT scan, an individual lies on a table inside a doughnut-shaped machine. An X-ray tube inside the machine rotates around the body and collects images of the heart and chest.

In a cardiac MRI, an individual lies on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produces a magnetic field. The magnetic field aligns atomic particles in some of the body’s cells. When radio waves are broadcast toward these aligned particles, they produce signals that vary according to the type of tissue they are. The signals create images of the heart.

5 Treatment

Several treatment methods are used for heart attack.

With each passing minute after a heart attack, more tissue deteriorates and dies due to reduced oxygen supply.

The major way of preventing any heart damage is  to restore blood flow as fast as possible. The following medication can be given to a heart attack victim: Aspirin, thrombolytics or clogbusters, antiplatelet agents (prevents new clots from forming and older ones from increasing in size), other blood-thinning medications, such as heparin, to make your blood less "sticky" and less likely to form clot.

Other medication can include pain relievers, nitroglycerin. This medication, used to treat chest pain (angina), can help improve blood flow to the heart by widening (dilating) the blood vessels.

Beta blockers can aslo be used in the treatment, these drugs help relax  heart muscle, slow heartbeat and decrease blood pressure. Beta blockers can limit the amount of heart muscle damage and prevent future heart attacks.

ACE inhibitors are drugs that lower blood pressure and reduce stress on the heart.

Surgical and other procedures in addition to medications can be used to treat a heart attack as well.

Coronary angioplasty and stenting. During this process, a doctor inserts a long, thin tube (catheter) that's passed through an artery, usually in the leg or groin, to a blocked artery in the heart. If one has  had a heart attack, this procedure is often done immediately after a cardiac catheterization, a procedure used to locate blockages. This catheter is equipped with a special balloon that, once in position, is briefly inflated to open a blocked coronary artery.

A metal mesh stent may be inserted into the artery to keep it open long term, restoring blood flow to the heart. Depending on the condition, the doctor may opt to place a stent coated with a slow-releasing medication to help keep on's artery open.

Coronary artery bypass surgery can also be performed. Bypass surgery involves sewing veins or arteries in place beyond a blocked or narrowed coronary artery, allowing blood flow to the heart to bypass the narrowed section.

Once blood flow to the  heart is reestablished and  condition is stable, one is  likely to remain in the hospital for several more days.

6 Prevention

It is never too late to begin preventive measure against a heart attack.

The following points may be helpful in the process of stopping the occurrence of future heart attacks: Taking well prescribed medication can subsequently reduce the probability of developing heart attacks in the future.

It is very advisable to respect the doctor’s orders and prescriptions. Another factor that can aid in the prevention of heart attacks process is having the right lifestyle habits

Eating healthy by reducing on cholesterol or sugar which are leading factors of diabetes, avoiding smoking or quitting it and having a good exercise regime.

These points, if applied, can significantly reduce the risks of developing a heart attack.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to prevent and recover from heart attack.

Lifestyle greatly affects the health of the heart. The following steps can help one both prevent and recover from heart attack:

  • Avoiding smoke,
  • controlling blood pressure and cholesterol level,
  • getting regular medical check-ups,
  • exercising regularly.

Regular exercise helps improve heart muscle function after a heart attack and helps prevent a heart attack by helping one to control their weight, diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. Exercise needn't be vigorous.

Maintaining a healthy weight. Excess weight strains the heart and can contribute to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Eating a heart-healthy diet devoid of saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol which narrow the arteries can help prevent heart disease and too much salt can raise blood pressure. Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes lean proteins, such as fish and beans, plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

High blood sugar is damaging to the heart. Regular exercise, eating well and losing weight all help to keep blood sugar levels at more-desirable levels.

Controlling stress can also be one way to reduce the risks of getting a heart attack. Another way is by rethinking workaholic habits and find healthy ways to minimize or deal with stressful events.

Alcohol consumption should be avoided or done moderately. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

Having a heart attack is scary. How will this affect your life? Will you be able to return to work or resume activities you enjoy? Will it happen again?

Here are some suggestions to help you cope: Dealing with emotions like fear, anger, guilt and depression are all common after a heart attack.

Discussing them with a doctor, a family member or a friend may help. Or consider talking to a mental health provider or joining a support group. It's important to mention signs or symptoms of depression to a doctor.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs can be effective in preventing or treating depression after a heart attack. Cardiac rehabilitation programs generally focus on four main areas — medications, lifestyle changes, emotional issues and a gradual return to your normal activities.

Some people worry about having sex after a heart attack, but most people can safely return to sexual activity after recovering from a heart attack. Resuming sexual activity will depend on physical comfort, psychological readiness and previous sexual activity. Some heart medications may affect sexual function. If you're having problems with sexual dysfunction, talk to your doctor.

8 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with heart attack.

There are various factors that may lead to unwanted buildup of fat (atherosclerosis) that narrows ateries throughout the body.

Anyone can improve or eliminate many of these risks factors that can lead to a heaart attack.

The following are risk factors of heart attacks: The first is age, men aged 45 or more and women aged 55 and older are a higher risk of getting heart attacks than those younger.

Another factor is tobacco intake by smoking, smoke and long-time exposre to smoke increases the risks of having a heart attack.

Another risk factor comes in the form of high blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage the arteries that feed the heart by speeding up atherosclerosis.

High blood pressure that occurs with obesity, smoking, high cholesterol or diabetes increases  the risks dramatically. High blood cholesterol levels or triglyceride levelsand a high level of low-density lipoprotein are likely to narrow the arteries. A high level of tryglycerides, a type of blood fat related to thee diet can also increase the risks of heart attacks.

Using stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines, can trigger a spasm of coronary arteries that can cause a heart attack.

A history of preeclampsia. This condition causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and increases the lifetime risk of heart disease.

A history of an autoimmune condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune conditions can increase the risk of having a heart attack.

Heart attack complications are often related to the damage done to the heart during a heart attack. This damage can lead to the following conditions: Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). If your heart muscle is damaged from a heart attack, electrical "short circuits" can develop, resulting in abnormal heart rhythms, some of which can be serious, even fatal.

Heart valves damaged during a heart attack may develop severe, life-threatening leakage problems.

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