Heart attacks also known as myocardial infarctions are the leading cause of death in America. Almost every 40 seconds, someone in America suffers from a heart attack. It is a serious condition and needs immediate medical attention.
The heart muscle is fueled by blood rich oxygen being pumped through the vessels that supply it blood . When the blood flow of oxygen slows or stops completely, then a heart attack occurs. The main reason for the reduced flow is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD occurs because plaque is building up in the artery walls which causes a narrowing of blood flow.
The impact of a heart attack depends on which arteries become affected and how much time goes by before a person receives treatment. The effects can range from mild symptoms to death.
Many heart attacks occur due to a blockage of blood vessels in the heart. This usually is due to plaque that has accumulated over time. Plaque occurs by fatty deposits that consist of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrin. It causes the artery walls to narrow, thicken and become stiff. It is also called atherosclerosis.
Blood clots can also cause heart attacks. When this happens it is because the plaque deposits inside the heart rupture. At this rupture point, the blood cannot supply oxygen to heart muscles. This event is called a heart attack.
Heart attacks are not always caused by atherosclerosis or blood clots. They can also be caused by:
- A rare medical condition caused by any disease that can narrow the blood vessels.
- A person who experiences trauma that tears or ruptures the coronary arteries.
- Eating disorders damage the heart over time and lead to heart attacks.
- Having an electrolyte imbalance such as too much potassium can cause heart attacks.
- Embolisms that get caught or trapped in the coronary artery.
- Spasms of the artery cause twitches and cut off blood flow to the heart muscle.
Symptoms of a heart attack can vary, and some are more common than others. The symptoms a person can have can vary between males and females.
There are symptoms that most people describe having when having a heart attack. These include:
- The chest may feel heavy or mildly painful.
- It can start in the chest, move down the arm, shoulder, neck, jaw, back and move down toward the waist.
- Shortness of breath or having trouble breathing.
- Feeling indigestion, nausea, or stomach pain.
- An increase in heart rhythm.
- Sweating when there is no excursion.
- An increased feeling of anxiety.
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or even passing out.
Women’s symptoms can be different. Women’s symptoms do not typically feel like chest pains or the feeling of indigestion. Women who are experiencing a heart attack will describe it as:
- Pain in the back, shoulder, neck, arms, or abdomen.
- Feeling nausea or even vomiting.
- A feeling of fatigue, insomnia, or shortness of breath that occurs before the heart attack.
When a heart attack occurs, a person will need to receive immediate treatment. Calling 911 to get a response team on sight will be the first step. If there is a person nearby that can start CPR, that should begin. Another option will be to use an automated external defibrillator, known in short as an AED. This can get the heart back into a normal rhythm.
At the hospital, procedures to repair the heart include cardiac catheterization and angioplasty. This procedure involves a thread that goes into the wrist or groin area. The cardiologist looks for any blockage in the coronary arteries. They use x-rays, and a dye injected into the wire. When the blockage is found, a stent is placed to hold open the artery. This will allow blood to keep flowing through the artery.
A heart bypass grafting is an extensive surgery. During bypass surgery, blood vessels are removed. They are taken from the heart or the leg to replace or “bypass” a blocked artery. This will reroute the blood and restore the blood flow to the heart.
Medications help prevent a future heart attack. They can help prevent blood clots and help the heart work better. Medications can prevent plaque buildup and lower cholesterol.
When a patient is at the hospital, medicine for heart attack prevention include:
- Oxygen for low oxygen in the blood.
- Morphine or nitroglycerin to reduce pain levels and relax muscles of the blood vessels.
- Beta-blockers or calcium channels blockers to lessen the workload on the heart.
- Statins to lower cholesterol and reduce plaque buildup.
- ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure.
- Aspirin to reduce clotting time.
- After the hospital, there will be medications for long-term treatment. They include: