A heart attack takes place when the supply of oxygen to the heart is reduced and you may experience pain that radiates to the back, jaw, throat, or arm or feel pressure in the chest. Nausea or shortness of breath with profuse sweating are some other indications that you may be having a heart attack.
The coronary arteries provide a regular supply of blood to keep your heart muscle in working condition. Sometimes these arteries become narrow due to build-up of cholesterol and other deposits, also called plaque, so that blood is unable to flow through smoothly.
Often blood clots form around this plaque and the heart becomes starved for oxygen as the blood clots block the artery supplying blood. This results in damage of heart muscles and is called a heart attack.
Non-modifiable risk factors - you may not have much control on the following:
Age: men older than 45 years or women older than 55 years are more prone to have a heart attack.
Gender: Men have higher risk of heart attack than women. This evens out after the age of 70 years.
Family history of heart attack: you may be at risk of a heart attack if your parents, grandparents or siblings had a history of heart attacks at an early age, especially before 50.
Modifiable risk factors - you can try to keep the following under control:
High blood pressure: sustained high blood pressure can damage arteries especially when present with other conditions, like obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes, increases your risk manifold.
High blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels: a high level of triglycerides, a type of blood fat associated with your diet, increases your risk of heart attack and a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is likely to narrow the arteries.
Diabetes: increase in blood sugar levels increases your risk of heart attack.
Obesity: obesity causes increased blood cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure and diabetes which may result in a heart attack.
Illicit drug use: drugs like cocaine or amphetamines can trigger a spasm of your coronary arteries leading to a heart attack.
Stress: excessive stress in daily life is a risk factor.
Signs & Symptoms:
Heart attack symptoms could include any of the following:
Extreme shortness of breath.
Tightness, pain, or a squeezing sensation in your chest.
Pain that radiates from your chest towards your arms, back, neck or jaw.
Discomfort, nausea or heartburn.
Fatigue or dizziness.
If you experience any of these symptoms, visit Medcare for diagnostics and to identify possible heart attack causes:
Electrocardiogram or ECG monitors your heart rate, rhythm and changes that could be indicative of heart attack. Most importantly, it shows the extent of damage to your heart muscle and where it has occurred.
Blood tests: Cardiac enzymes like Troponin and CK MB are a sign of heart muscle damage and assists the heart specialist in understanding the size of the heart attack and the time it started.
Echocardiography is an imaging test which indicates if the heart is pumping normally. Any damage to the heart muscle can be picked up early by echo. Injuries to structures of the heart like valves, septum during the heart attack can also be observed.
Cardiac catheterisation or cardiac cath, is used immediately after a heart attack to see which artery is blocked and to what extent.
At Medcare, you can get the appropriate heart attack treatment for your condition. It is imperative to restore the blood flow to the heart immediately after a heart attack.
Treatment depends on the severity of the damage to the heart muscle and the age of the patient. The primary treatment is through medications followed by coronary angiography or angioplasty. At times, CABG surgery would be required.
Coronary angioplasty and stenting: by inserting a long, thin tube through an artery in your groin or wrist, doctors are able to locate the blockages in your arteries. After this either a balloon is used to open the blocked artery or a metal stent is inserted to keep the artery wall open.
Coronary artery bypass surgery: as the term suggests, doctors sew veins or arteries in place, past a blocked artery, thereby permitting the blood flow to the heart to bypass the affected artery.
There is history of heart attacks in my family, how do I avoid it?
A: Even if you have a family history of heart disease, you can reduce your chances of getting a heart attack by following heart-healthy habits. The most important aspects you should bear in mind are:
Avoid smoking: the nicotine in smoke causes lower supply of oxygen to the heart. Smoking also causes your blood pressure and heart rate to increase. Smoking increases blood clotting and damages arteries.
Follow an exercise and fitness programme: regular exercise helps you to control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, and also reduces stress.
Eat a healthy diet: good nutrition helps to control your weight and manage your blood pressure and cholesterol.
How will I know that I’m having a heart attack?
A: A heart attack may come with symptoms that are sudden and intense, or with mild pain and discomfort. Don’t take a chance, if you experience any of the following, call for emergency help:
Pain or discomfort in the chest.
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath.
Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or giddiness.
If someone is diabetic or hypertensive, they should be more aware of their condition and seek medical help in case of any of the above mentioned symptoms.
What should I do if I have these symptoms of heart attack?
A: The first thing is not to panic. Ask for help and call 999. If you are a smoker, please do not smoke to relieve the stress as it will worsen the situation. If you have Aspirin at home, the 999 dispatcher may tell you to chew one full 325 mg Aspirin.
How long does it take to recover after a heart attack?
The heart muscle starts healing immediately after the attack and normally takes up to 8 weeks to recover fully. Many patients resume their work and their normal activities within 2 to 3 months after the attack, depending on how severe it was.
I have suffered a heart attack. What should I do now to recover well? What are good heart attack prevention practices?
A: Once you have suffered a heart attack, it’s very important for you to take good care of your health. Here are some aspects that you should pay attention to:
Do schedule all follow-up visits to your cardiologist as recommended.
Remember to take all your medications and follow your doctor’s instructions.
Attend cardiac rehabilitation sessions if your doctor has advised you to do so.
Try to remain in a calm and happy frame-of-mind.
Understand the effects of lifestyle choices and make modifications if necessary.
These steps will help you to recover and prevent chances of having another heart attack.