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What Is A Heart Attack? Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

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While most of us think we know who is at risk for a heart attack, the truth is you never know.

That’s why it’s important to understand as much as possible about heart attacks, their warning signs, symptoms and how to reduce your risk for a heart attack.

Definition:

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, is a potentially fatal health problem caused by the blockage of arteries that feed blood to the heart.

These arteries are called the coronary arteries, and blockage is usually caused by build up of plaque made mainly of fat and cholesterol.

When a piece of plaque in your bloodstream ruptures, your body’s defense system sends platelets to the scene to patch up the rupture of the pre-existing plaque.

This blockage caused by platelets is what cuts off the blood, and therefore oxygen, supply to your heart. In minutes, your heart tissue begins to die from the oxygen deficiency.

This is a heart attack.

The Signs:

Unfortunately most people don’t know the signs of a heart attack. Yet knowing those signs can be key to preventing a fatal results. While chest pain is the most commonly recognized symptom of a heart attack, it’s definitely not the only symptom. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Jaw pain, headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Arm Pain
  • Upper Back Pain

Acting on these early warning signs can help you survive a heart attack.

What To Do About a Heart Attack:

    • Call 911 immediately
    • relax and try to put as little mental or physical stress on your heart as possible
    • if you have access to aspirin, take it. This may help the clot in your artery from becoming worse
    • Try to stay warm; your body functions best and uses less energy when it is warm

RELATED: Learn how L-Arginine could help lower YOUR risk for heart attack.

The Treatment:

The quicker you get to the hospital, the better. The earlier the treatment, the better the odds are of preventing further damage to your heart muscle.

Once at the hospital, your doctors may try multiple procedures depending on the severity of your case. Often you will be given aspirin to thin your blood and prevent clots,, you will be given oxygen and treatment for chest pain.

A Percutaneous Coronary Angioplasty may be used to open up blood flow in the blocked artery. During this procedure, a doctor may place a stent, or a mesh tube that prevents clotting or blockages for months or years to come.

A coronary Artery Bypass Grafting can be used to treat a heart attack depending on the case.

In this case, a surgeon will take a section of a healthy vein or artery and graft it to the blocked artery causing the heart attack. This way, the blood can “bypass” the blockage and still reach the heart via a different route.

Aftermath:

Experiencing a heart attack is traumatic for the victim as well as friends and family of the victim. Especially since a heart attack leaves a victim at higher risk for another heart attack, and the heart muscle will never function quite as well again.

After surviving a heart attack, your doctor will most likely administer medicines to help chest pain, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, as well as recommending lifestyle changes such as no smoking, losing weight, and a different diet.

A heart attack victim who has had surgery to treat a heart attack will likely have longer recovery time and won’t return to normal activity as quickly.

As is common after any traumatic event, heart attack victims are at risk for anxiety and depression following their heart attack. Lifestyle changes aren’t always easy to make, and the worry of having another heart attack can be all-consuming.

Thankfully, there are support groups and therapy to help ease the mental side effects of physical trauma.

 

Are You At Risk?

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, have diabetes, if you are overweight, if you smoke, or have a poor diet, you’re at risk for suffering a heart attack. Based on family history of heart problems, you may already be predisposed to heart problems and heart attack risk.

Sources:

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heartattack/risks

http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/cardiovascular/heart/what-happens-during-a-heart-attack.htm

For more information on how you can maintain your heart health, read Heart Attack Myths, Busted