The heart is a living muscle that is charged with pumping blood throughout the entire circulatory system, and when compared to other muscle in the human body it is very reflective of how the person takes care of themselves in terms of their diet, lifestyle and overall health.
Myocardial infarction, or in layman’s terms, heart attack occurs when one or more of the arteries supplying blood and oxygen to the heart become blocked from a buildup of fatty deposits built up over time in the heart that forms plaques in your heart’s arteries. If a plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form and block your arteries, causing a heart attack.
HEART ATTACK RISK FACTORS
• Smoking and long-term exposure to second hand smoke
• High blood pressure (hypertension)
• High cholesterol
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Family history of heart attacks and heart disease
HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS
- Chest discomfort – The chest pain associated with a heart attack doesn’t feel the same for everyone. The earliest predictor of a potential heart attack is recurrent chest pain triggered by exertion that is then relieved by rest. But usually when this happens someone feels an abrupt, strong pain that causes them to stop in their tracks and clutch their chest.
- Pain or discomfort throughout the body – Heart attack pain isn’t limited to the chest area. Heart attack symptoms can include soreness in the neck, arms, jaw or back, or a combination of these. Women are more likely than men to experience jaw and back pain when suffering from a heart attack. In some cases people may feel an inexplicable sense of ‘doom’.
- Shortness of breath – Shortness of breath is a heart attack symptom that is not usually recognized as one. However, those vulnerable to heart problems should be aware of any sudden breathing problems, especially if combined with other symptoms mentioned here.
- Nausea – Lightheadedness, vomiting, cold sweats and nausea are also symptoms that are not often associated with a heart attack but can signal the onset of one. Abnormal fluid retention and fatigue may come into play here as well that causes the nausea.
The actual heart attack itself may often occur over several hours as the heart tissue is deprived of blood and begins to deteriorate or die. Victims may be prone dismiss these sensations as false alarms, but it is imperative that they should check whether their blood flow is working normally to avert possible heart problems.
HEART ATTACK TREATMENT
If your loved one experiences the symptoms of a heart attack, you should call 9-1-1 immediately. Another reason that immediate treatment is essential is because heart attacks can trigger ventricular fibrillation (sudden cardiac arrest). Once your loved one arrives at the hospital, she will likely receive medication, undergo a surgical procedure, or both. Restoring blood flow is the key to keeping heart tissue alive and healthy. After treatment, doctors will prescribe medications based on the patient’s personal health history and the cause and severity of his heart attack. Some of the common drugs given to treat and prevent heart attack include:
- Aspirin to prevent clotting,
- Thrombolytics or clot-busters to keep blood flowing;
- Super aspirins, more potent aspirin given in tandem with thrombolytics to prevent clotting;
- Pain relievers/painkillers
- Nitroglycerin, designed to open arterial blood vessels;
- Beta blockers to relax the heart muscle, slow heartbeat, and decrease blood pressure
- Cholesterol-lowering medications to lower cholesterol and improve survival rates.
HEART ATTACK PREVENTION
Some of the medications used to treat the aftermath of a heart attack are also the same ones used in the prevention of heart attacks. In addition, there are also angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors that ease blood flow to the heart.
Though it is highly preferable for one to simply include changes in their lifestyle which are regular exercise and a healthy diet; not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight; having regular check-ups, monitor cholesterol and blood pressure; reducing or managing stress; and moderating alcohol consumption.
Remember that heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest starkly remind us of our physical vulnerabilities, often as a consequence of unhealthy lifestyle choices. They are the heart’s way of telling us in no uncertain terms that we need to change our routines, if not our entire way of life, if we want to continue living. So keep your heart healthy folks.