In the present population, heart diseases are the leading cause of death in both urban and rural areas. As per the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention), there is at least one report of a new or recurrent heart stroke for every 45 seconds in India. Also, a heart attack kills one person every 3.1 minutes in India. Since so many people are subjected to death because of this disease, it is important for you to understand about the disease in detail.
What is a heart attack?
Heart attack is a sudden blockage in the blood supply to the heart muscles. This occurs due to a 100% obstruction of the artery supplying the heart muscles leading to the death of the muscle due to oxygen deprivation.
The severity of the attack is based on the extent of the muscles affected. It is considered as a mild attack if only 5-10% of the heart muscles are involved. Most of the patients who get a mild heart attack can survive. But, if the blockage affects 30-40% of the heart muscles, then it is considered as severe heart attack and the patient needs immediate management. Otherwise, death can occur.
Let us see the population at risk for heart disease
The incidence of heart disease is high in elderly population. However, these days, even the younger population is facing heart attacks for several other reasons.
In general, men are at higher risk of getting heart attacks as compared to women. But due to excess stress, women are also more prone to heart attacks in the present population.
A family history of a heart attack can strongly put you to the risk of getting a heart attack. So, understand your family history much in advance so that you can take the precautionary steps to prevent or decrease your risk for the disease.
Causes of heart attack
Heart attack occurs due to the clogging of the arteries supplying the heart muscles. This can occur due to several factors as below:
- Foods rich in cholesterol can lead to the deposition of fat and cholesterol in the arterial vessel walls. This is considered as the major culprit for heart attack. Consequently, the blood that flows through such vessels can form clots. As the size of such clots increases, it can completely block the supply leading to the death of the muscles.
- A high blood pressure is also considered as a “silent killer”. It increases the strain on the blood vessels and causes fat deposition in the arterial walls.
- Obesity can also increase your risk for heart diseases including heart attack. Lack of physical activity along with excess food intake is causing obesity in more number of people.
- Psychological stress can lead to the spasms of the coronary arteries and is an important risk factor for heart diseases.
- Tobacco and alcohol consumption are hazardous for the health of the heart.
Know the warning signs of a heart attack
Act quickly when you see the following warning signs in you or your fellow being
- A discomfort in your chest, along with pain, pressure, or a feeling of squeezing for a few minutes
- Light-headedness, sweating, fainting, nausea and shortness of breath along with an uncomfortable chest
- Difficulty in walking or jogging
- Pain that spreads to your shoulders and arms
What should you do when you get the attack?
The first one hour after the onset of heart attack is called as the golden hour. A proper action taken during these 60 minutes can help the patient reverse from the condition. Heart muscles die in 80-90 minutes after getting deprived of the blood supply. So, a faster re-establishment during this window of opportunity can lessen the damage.
Get an immediate help to reach a doctor in this golden hour. Do not drive yourself.
In case, you see someone who collapses with an attack, then make the patient lie down on back immediately. Listen to the heartbeat; also check if the person is breathing. If he/she is not breathing then give chest compression and help in breathing by providing mouth-to-mouth respiration. Call for an ambulance.
As it is not possible to remove the excessive deposits of cholesterol in a short time, the clots formed in the blood vessel are targeted during the treatment. Injections of clot-busters such as streptokinase or urokinase or heparin are given as a quick remedy. If they can break the clots, then at least 20-30% of the vessel is opened. However, these injections are not always effective in providing the relief. Also, they can cause certain side effects such as internal bleeding, bleeding of stomach ulcers and severe bleeding in the brain, all of which can be dangerous.
Angioplasty is a surgical procedure, which involves the placement of a stent to open the blocked vessels in treating a heart attack.
A by-pass surgery is another alternative treatment where your doctor operates to replace the damaged vessels with normal vessels from other parts of your body.
If the ECG shows an abnormal heart rhythm, then the treatment involves normalizing the heat rate with medications at first.
A damaged area in the heart can increase the strain on other parts of the heart leading to further attacks. So, you will have to stay in a hospital (in the emergency ward) for at least a week. You will be suggested to walk from the fifth day of getting the attack. This is because an early mobilization is found to help in a faster recovery.
Preventive measures for heart attack
After understanding the causes for heart attack, it is obvious to avoid the factors which are increasing your risk, to prevent yourself from getting a heart attack.
- Limit fat, cholesterol and salt in your diet. Instead, consume more of fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise on a daily basis. Keep your weight under control.
- Control high blood pressure and diabetes by taking medicines as prescribed.
- Do not smoke or drink.
- Go for a regular check up, especially if you have a family history of heart disease.
Do not ignore the heart problems as it is a matter of life and death. If you notice the signs or symptoms of heart disease then take the necessary steps, right away. The more prompt your actions are, the more safe you will be! Save lives by helping faster!