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COMPLETE AND COMPREHENSIVE Heart Attack

Heart Attack

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is a critical medical condition where the blood flow to the heart is severely reduced due to blockage or congestion. The blockage is usually due to prolonged build-up of cholesterol (plaque), fat, etc. that results in coronary heart diseases.

In some cases, the plaque ruptures causing a clot that restricts the blood flow to the heart. Eventually, the lack of blood in the heart may lead to serious damage to the heart muscles. Therefore, it is important to seek medical care from the doctor to restore blood flow and prevent cardiovascular damage.  

The heart muscles may get damaged and begin to die. Without treatment, the heart muscles will experience irreversible damage and may die.

What Are the Different Types of Heart Attacks?

There are three types of heart attacks - 

  • ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) - These types of heart attacks are severe and require immediate medical attention. These attacks occur when the coronary artery is fully blocked which can cause progressive damage to the heart muscles. 
  • Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) - These heart attacks occur when the blood flow is partially restricted. While such heart attacks may not be fatal, they can cause permanent damage to the heart muscles.
  • Coronary spasm, or unstable angina - Also termed as silent heart attacks or unstable angina occurs when the blood flow to the heart is restricted by the arteries connected to the heart contract. The symptoms of coronary heart spasms can mimic other medical conditions like indigestion. Therefore, it is important to distinguish the heart attack symptoms for timely treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

Heart attack symptoms vary from one patient to another. Some symptoms can be mild while others can cause severe health issues. Common heart attack symptoms include the following - 

  • Chest Pain
  • Cold sweats
  • Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, upper belly
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Coughing or wheezing

What Causes a Heart Attack?

One of the leading causes of heart attack involves coronary artery disease where one or more arteries are blocked. The congestion usually occurs due to the build-up of cholesterol deposits (plaques) that Interrupts the blood flow to the heart. Several risk factors that contribute to coronary heart diseases include - 

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Smoking or consumption of tobacco 
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol or triglycerides
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Stress
  • Illegal drug use
  • Any autoimmune condition

How are Heart Attacks Diagnosed?

Usually, a heart attack is often diagnosed in an emergency situation. Your doctor should warn you of any risks that can lead to a heart attack during the medical checkups. Heart attack diagnoses include physical examinations like checking blood pressure, pulse rate, temperature, etc. In addition, the doctor may recommend the following tests to check the overall health of the heart - 

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Coronary catheterization (Angiogram)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Cardiac CT or MRI
  • Chest X-rays
  • Blood Tests

What is the Treatment for Heart Attack?

Heart attack treatment depends on the type of heart attack you are experiencing. STEMI is the most serious type of heart attack that requires emergency treatment. Heart attack treatment aims to fix the blood flow and restore oxygen levels. The procedure may vary from one patient to another considering the health of the heart and the risk of a major heart attack. Heart attack treatment includes the following - 

Medications - Doctors prescribe medications to reduce blood clotting and improve the blood flow to the heart. For patients with NSTEMI or unstable angina, blood thinning medicines can make the blood less sticky and less likely to form clots. There are a number of medicines to manage mild to moderate heart attack symptoms, some of which include - 

  • Aspirin
  • Clot busters
  • Blood thinning medications
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Morphine
  • Beta-blockers
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Statins

Surgery - In case a patient experiences a heart attack, the doctor may also recommend surgical intervention to open blocked arteries and improve blood flow. Surgical procedures for heart attack treatment include the following - 

What Are the Ways to Prevent a Heart Attack?

Heart attack prevention aims at improving the health of the heart and reducing the risk factors that can contribute to the blockage of the arteries. Get regular checkups with the doctor to examine the heart condition and analyze and risk of a heart attack. Here are some ways that can help improve your heart health - 

  • Regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Avoid stress
  • Reducing weight
  • Quit smoking or consuming tobacco products
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Manage blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • Get regular health checkups

FAQs

What is the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack?

A heart attack is a condition where the blood flow to the heart is severely reduced or obstructed due to the build-up of fat, cholesterol, etc. Cardiac arrest, on the other hand, refers to the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness. A heart attack is a plumbing issue while cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction. 
 

What does a heart attack start like?

Most heart attacks begin with discomfort in the center or left side of the chest. The feeling may last for more than a few minutes and may come and go away. You may feel chest pain and pressure followed by weakness and lightheadedness. 

 

What are the complications of a heart attack?

Chronic heart diseases and congestion in the arteries can damage the heart muscles. Potential complications of heart disease include the following - 

How can I recover from a heart attack?

Here are some tips to recover from a heart attack - 

  • Eat healthier diet
  • Increase physical activity
  • Quit smoking
  • Take prescribed medications
  • Attend programs on cardiac rehabilitation
  • Take less stress
  • Limit sexual activity for some time after a heart attack

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