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Heart Attack

Definition:

A heart attack, which is medically referred to as myocardial infarction, is the stopping or severe reduction of blood supply to the heart, causing permanent damage to the heart muscle.

Causes:

The leading cause of heart attacks is coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD causes the buildup of substances such as fat and cholesterol in coronary arteries. These buildups are referred to as plaque.

When a plaque breaks, a blood clot is formed around it and blood flow could be blocked. This blockage results in a lack of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The heart needs oxygen to survive, so this blockage results in the sudden death or damage of part of the heart muscle. This is when a heart attack occurs.

Risk factors:

  • People who do not get enough exercise
  • People with hypertension
  • People who eat diets rich in fatty foods
  • Obese or overweight people
  • Diabetics
  • Males have a higher risk of getting a heart attack
  • Men over 45 and women over 55
  • People who have had heart surgery
  • People who have previously had a heart attack
  • People with extremely stressful lifestyles
  • People who consume alcohol excessively
  • People exposed to extreme air pollution
  • People with high cholesterol levels
  • People with angina, hypoxia or an aneurism

Symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Pain in one or both arms, the neck, jaw, abdomen or back
  • A sensation of heartburn (indigestion, choking feeling and fullness)
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety similar to a panic attack
  • Coughing
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Extreme weakness
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeats

People with diabetics may have a “silent” heart attack that does not display symptoms.

Diagnosis:

If you suspect that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, head to a hospital right away. The hospital will carry out the following tests:

  • Blood tests

A blood test is used to check for certain enzymes that are present in the blood after a heart attack.

  • Electrocardiograph (ECG)

This is a machine that measures the electrical activity in the heart. This can determine the level of damage to the heart and monitor heart rate.

  • Chest X-ray

An X-ray can help determine if there is any swelling in the heart.

  • Echocardiography

This is an imaging test that can determine the pumping of the heart and whether or not the heart is pumping abnormally.

  • Coronary angiography

This can determine if there are is any narrowing or blockage of blood vessels and where it has occurred.

Treatment:

If a person is having a heart attack, another person may perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by pressing on their chest and then blowing into their mouth.

The next step is usually a surgical procedure and medications.

Medications include aspirin, pain killers and thrombolytics.

Surgical procedures include an angioplasty, where a wire with a balloon at the end of it is inserted into the artery to push the clot away. Another option is a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), where an artery from your body will be taken and attached to the affected artery.

Prevention:

A healthy lifestyle can help protect you from having a heart attack. Exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, quit smoking, quit or limit alcohol intake and manage any health conditions properly.

Furthermore, try to reduce stress in your day-to-day life.


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