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Heart Attack

Heart attacks often occur suddenly and are intense in nature. Many people may notice some signs before the heart attack occurs, but fail to understand the red signal on time. They fail to understand what is happening to them and wait too long to seek medical help.

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What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart gets blocked. This blockage can occur due to many reasons. These include build-up of fats, cholesterol, as well as other substances. Together they form plaque in the arteries that bring the blood to the heart that is the coronary arteries. It leads to starvation for oxygen and nutrients of heart muscles is called as ischemia.

This ischemia can damage or destroy the heart muscles lead to a heart attack or myocardial infraction. It can prove to be fatal in many cases. Thus, timely medical help during a heart attack can help save a life.

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Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

The signs that indicate one is having a heart attack includes:

  • Chest discomfort where the discomfort usually occurs in the center of the chest. You feel uneasy for more than a few minutes and then it goes away. This feeling may reoccur. One may feel uncomfortable pressure on the chest, squeezing, fullness or pain in chest.
  • Other areas of the upper body like the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach may be affected. One feels the discomfort or pain in these areas of the body.
  • Shortness of breath can occur with or without discomfort
  • Other symptoms include nausea, lightheadedness or breaking into a cold sweat.

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In case of women, the most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort. Some other symptoms that are more likely to occur in women than men includes shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, back or jaw pain.

The symptoms of heart attack varies from victim to victim. Some may have a mild pain and a few may feel intense pain. For a few, there may be no symptoms of a heart attack and some may suffer from a cardiac arrest suddenly.

Causes of a Heart Attack

Heart attack occurs when one or more of the coronary arteries get blocked by plaque. Over time, the blockage occurs gradually with various substances such as cholesterol. It leads to atherosclerosis, a condition that is most likely to lead to a heart attack.

During the heart attack, the plaque can rupture and cause cholesterol to be spilled into the bloodstream. This causes formation of a blood clot on the site of rupture that can further lead to complete blockage of blood flow to the coronary artery.

Those who use drugs, or are chain-smokers, can develop a life-threatening spasm of the coronary artery. This causes shut down of blood flow to a part of the heart muscle. Thus, leading to a heart attack.

In some cases, a heart attack can also occur due to spontaneous coronary artery dissection. In simple words, a tear in the heart artery can lead to myocardial infraction.

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Risk factors for heart attack

Many risk factors can lead to a heart attack. You will find diet and lifestyle plays an important role in heart attack.

  • Age more than 45 years
  • Chain smoking or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke
  • High blood pressure that damages the arteries
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart attack
  • Lack of physical activity or a passive lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Use of illegal drugs like cocaine
  • An underlying autoimmune condition like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus

Diagnosis of heart attack

During a regular health checkup, the doctor will screen you for risk factors that lead to a heart attack. In case of an emergency, the doctor will ask the patient for the symptoms, check the blood pressure, pulse rate and body temperature.

The patient will be hooked to a heart monitor and the test will immediately show if the patient is having a heart attack.

The tests that indicate heart attack or other conditions include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Blood tests that show certain enzymes in the blood that may have leaked due to damage to the heart

Other tests conducted during or after a heart attack include:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • Coronary catheterization
  • Exercise stress test
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT Scan)
  • MRI

Treatment of heart attack

The medications given to treat a heart attack include:

  • Aspirin
  • Thrombolytics
  • Antiplatelet agents
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Pain relievers
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Beta-blockers
  • ACE inhibitors

The surgical and other procedures for treating heart attack includes:

  • Coronary angioplasty and stenting
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery

After a heart attack, one has to undergo a major overhaul in lifestyle and diet. These includes avoid smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, exercising, maintaining healthy weight, controlling stress, etc. Speak to your doctor regarding the risk factors and how you can prevent a heart attack.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: April 03, 2016