Heart Attack: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

A heart attack is a condition where there is a blockage that prevents blood flow to the heart. This blockage is due to the formation of plaque on the walls of blood vessels due to a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances. A person can fall suddenly without any warning because the heart stops beating because the blood supply that carries oxygen and nutrients to the heart is blocked.

When the heart stops beating, and blood flow to the brain and other organs stops. Within seconds, the patient stops breathing and has no pulse. This is called a sudden heart attack.

Causes of a Heart Attack

A heart attack caused by blood flow to the heart is suddenly interrupted because it is blocked by a buildup of plaque in the arteries. This condition can also be caused by blood clots or torn blood vessels. This condition causes the heart muscle to become damaged and begin to die. If you do not get treatment immediately, the heart muscles will experience permanent damage. If most of the heart is damaged, the heart stops beating (cardiac arrest), which results in death.

Risk Factors for Heart Attack

Certain factors at risk cause fat accumulation (atherosclerosis) which narrows arteries throughout the body. As prevention, maintaining health or eliminating several factors can reduce risk.

A number of risk factors that cause heart attacks include:

1. Age

Men who are 45 years old or older and women aged 55 years or older are more likely to have a heart attack than younger men and women.

2. Smoking

Active smokers and those who are exposed to long-term cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke), are at risk of developing heart problems.

3. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Hypertension over time can damage the arteries that provide nutrition to the heart. Hypertension that occurs with other conditions, such as obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes, even increases the risk of this disease.

4. Diabetes

Inadequate production of hormones released by the pancreas (insulin) or not responding properly to insulin causes blood sugar levels to rise, which in turn increases the risk of heart problems.

5. High Blood Cholesterol or Triglyceride Levels

Increased LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) is likely to narrow the arteries. High levels of triglycerides, a type of blood fat related to diet, can also increase the risk of heart attack. However, HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) can reduce risk.

6. Obesity

Being overweight is also related to elevated blood cholesterol levels, elevated triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Therefore, a mere 10 percent weight loss can reduce risk.

7. Metabolic Syndrome

This condition occurs when the body is obese, hypertensive and high blood sugar. Having metabolic syndrome puts you at twice the risk of heart disease.

8. Family History

Family members such as siblings, parents or grandparents who have an early heart attack (age 55 years for men and age 65 years for sisters), you may be at higher risk of developing this disease.

9. Lack of Physical Activity

Lack of body activity can trigger blood cholesterol levels to rise and become obese. Of course this condition is risky.

Compared to people who rarely move, those who often exercise regularly have better cardiovascular fitness and lower high blood pressure.

10. Stress

Mental disorders due to pressure also risk a heart attack. Certain people might respond to stress in ways that can increase risk.

11. Autoimmune conditions

Having certain health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can increase your risk of heart attack.

12. History of Preeclampsia

Experiencing this condition before can cause hypertension during pregnancy and increase the risk of heart disease for life.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

This heart disease can appear suddenly, but sometimes, there can also be signs and symptoms early before an attack. The characteristics of an initial heart attack are usually chest pain or angina. This condition is triggered by fatigue at work and subsides with rest. Angina itself occurs because the blood supply to the heart decreases. Meanwhile, other heart attack symptoms include:

  • Discomfort, pressure sensation, tightness or chest feels squeezed.
  • Pain in other parts of the body, such as pain that travels from the chest to the arm (usually the left arm, but can be in both arms), jaw, neck, back, and stomach.
  • Stomach feels full, indigestion, or choking (may feel like an ulcer).
  • Cold sweat.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • severe shortness of breath
  • Dizzy.
  • Weakness.
  • Worry.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  • Coughing or wheezing.

During cardiovascular disease, the symptoms last 30 minutes or more and do not disappear with rest or by administering nitroglycerin under the tongue. Some people experience it without the characteristics of a heart attack (silent myocardial infarction). Silent myocardial infarction can occur to anyone, but it is more common among diabetics.

Diagnosis of Heart Attack

If you suspect that you have this condition, you should get treatment at the hospital immediately. Typically, patients will be treated in an acute heart care unit, or directly to the cardiac catheterization unit, to diagnose and begin treatment.

Here are some tests that can be done to confirm a heart attack:

1. Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This first test is to diagnose by recording the electrical activity of the heart through electrodes attached to the skin. Impulses are recorded in the form of waves on the monitor.

2. Blood Test

The emergency room doctor (ER) will take blood samples for the purpose of testing the presence of protein in the blood. This heart protein slowly leaks into the blood after heart damage from a heart attack.

3. Chest X-ray

Chest X-ray images can allow doctors to check the size of the heart and blood vessels and look for fluid in the lungs.

4. Echocardiogram

This tool produces sound waves directed to the heart. Shaped like a stick (transducer) which is held in the chest bounces to the heart and is processed electronically to produce video images of the condition of the heart.

5. CT scan or MRI

Both of these tests are used to diagnose heart problems, including the degree of damage caused by a heart attack. CT scan or MRI of the heart is done to obtain images that show damage or disturbance to the heart.

Complications

When experiencing a heart attack, the normal heart rhythm is disrupted and at risk of total cardiac arrest. This abnormal heart rhythm is called arrhythmia.

When the heart stops getting blood supply during an attack, some tissue will die. This condition weakens the heart and can be life-threatening such as heart failure. This heart disease can also affect the heart valves and cause leakage.

Heart attack treatment

After the diagnosis, the doctor will use various tests and treatments, depending on what is causing the heart attack.

Doctors can perform cardiac catheterization, which is a probe that is inserted into a blood vessel through a soft flexible tube called a catheter. This method makes it easy for doctors to see where plaque is forming. The doctor can also inject a dye into the artery through a catheter and perform an x-ray, with a view to seeing how blood flows and blockages.

If you experience this life-threatening condition, your doctor can recommend a surgical or non-surgical procedure. This procedure can reduce pain and help prevent it later on.

Other common procedures include:

  • Angioplasty. This method is able to open blocked arteries by using a balloon or by removing plaque buildup.
  • Stent A wire hose inserted into an artery to remain open after an angioplasty procedure.
  • Heart bypass surgery. During bypass surgery, the doctor will divert blood flow around the blockage.
  • Heart valve surgery. Is a valve replacement operation that leaked to be replaced to help the heart pump.
  • Pacemaker. Is a tool that is implanted under the skin. This tool is designed to help the heart maintain a normal rhythm.
  • Liver transplant. Transplants are carried out in severe conditions where this cardiovascular disease causes permanent tissue death in a large part of the heart.

The doctor may also prescribe the following drugs to treat heart attacks:

  • Aspirin
  • Medication to break up clots
  • Antiplatelet and anticoagulant (blood thinners)
  • Painkillers
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Blood pressure medication

Prevention of Heart Attack

The best tips for prevention are living a healthy lifestyle. Here are some steps to a healthy life that can prevent you from a heart attack:

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat balanced and healthy food
  • Frequent exercise
  • Good quality sleep
  • Keep diabetes under control
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Control blood cholesterol levels
  • Control blood pressure
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid and control stress

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2 Comments

  1. I will share this article with my uncle. Maybe he can think about taking him to heart attack program.

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