A heart attack is a fatal condition that occurs due to the reduced blood flow caused by blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The blockage may occur due to the deposition of fat cells, inflammatory substances or cholesterol; the buildup of these substances narrows the arteries that decrease the supply of blood to the heart. This leads to heart attack or myocardial infarction.
Signs and symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of heart attack include:
- Discomfort, pain, and pressure on the chest
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cold sweats
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pressure in the upper back
- Shortness of breath
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Extreme weakness
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Abdominal pain
A heart attack occurs due to the deposition of cholesterol, fat cells, or inflammatory substances. These contribute to the formation of plaques in the arteries and restrict the blood flow to the heart muscle, which is referred as atherosclerosis. The formed plaques rupture and combine with the blood-clotting agents and platelets to form clots, this blocks the blood flow through the artery and increases the risk of heart attack.
The factors that increase the risk of heart attack include:
- Age: The risk of developing heart attack increases with age.
- Weight: Overweight and obese people are at a higher risk of developing a heart attack.
- Gender: Men are at a higher risk of developing heart attacks when compared to women.
- Family history: People with a strong family history of heart disease are at an increased risk of developing a heart attack.
- Medical history: A medical history of preeclampsia, stress, and diabetes can increase the risk of heart attack.
- Smoking: Use of tobacco products and continued exposure to secondary smoking raises the risk of heart attack.
- Alcohol: Alcohol consumption contributes to the increase in the risk of having a heart attack.
- Blood pressure& Cholesterol: High blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels can damage the arteries and accelerate atherosclerosis.
- Lifestyle: An inactive and sedentary lifestyle raises the overall risk of heart attack.
A heart attack can result in the following complications:
- Problems or damage to the heart valves
- A weakened heart muscle may rupture or leave a hole behind
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can develop
- The damage caused to the heart muscle may result in temporary or permanent heart failure
A heart attack is a serious condition that seeks immediate medical attention. The tests performed to diagnose heart attack are:
- Blood tests: Blood tests are done to check for the levels of cardiac enzymes and troponin, which are released into the bloodstream when there is damage caused to the heart muscle.
- Chest X-ray: This helps to identify the possible complications, such as enlargement of heart chambers and pulmonary edema.
- Echocardiography: Echocardiography helps to identify the damage caused in your heart valves or chambers.
- Coronary angiography: The test helps to locate the blocked areas in the coronary arteries.
- Electrocardiography (ECG): ECG helps to assess the electrical activity of the heart, which enables to know the extent of damage caused to the heart muscle.
The treatment should not be delayed if any symptoms of heart attack are experienced. Seeking an immediate medical attention can reduce further risks and complications associated with heart attack. Depending on the diagnosis, the following are the treatment options for heart attack:
Medications: Medications such as ACE inhibitors help in controlling the blood pressure. Anti-coagulant and anti-platelet medications prevent the blood clots and enable the free flow of blood in the arteries. Nitroglycerin is prescribed to help in widening the blood vessels. Thrombolytics dissolve the blood clots and increase the blood flow to the heart.
Coronary angioplasty: Coronary angioplasty helps in widening or correcting the blocked coronary artery.
Stent placement: A stent is placed in the blocked area of the blood vessel to restore the blood flow to the heart muscle.
Coronary artery bypass surgery: A healthy blood vessel is connected to the blocked artery of the heart to bypass the blocked route for a free flow of the blood.
The following are the lifestyle changes that help you to prevent the risk of heart attacks:
- Healthy eating habits play a major role in reducing the risks of heart attack. Choose foods that are low in trans-fat and saturated fat. Limit the use of salted and sweetened beverages.
- A regular physical activity like brisk walking, jogging, and cycling improves the heart function.
- Avoid smoking and consuming alcohol as it raises the risk of heart attacks.
- Maintain a healthy body weight as being overweight is one of the major risk factors associated with heart attack.
- Regular health checkups, such as monitoring your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels should be performed.