What is a heart attack? Why is a heart attack? Ways of prevention

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Why and how heart attacks occur

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is interrupted. Blockage is often caused by the accumulation of fat, cholesterol and other substances, which form a plaque in the arteries that feeds the heart (coronary arteries).

Occasionally, a plaque may rupture and form a clot that impedes blood flow. Interrupted blood flow can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle.

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, can be fatal, but treatment has gradually improved over the years.

Symptoms of a heart attack

Symptoms of a general heart attack

Pressure, tightness, pain, or a sensation of pressure or pain in your chest or arm that may spread to your neck, jaw, or back, Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain, Weakness of breath, Fatigue, Mild headache or sudden dizziness.

The symptoms of a heart attack vary

Not everyone who has had a heart attack has the same symptoms or the severity of the symptoms is the same. Some people have mild pain. Others are in more severe pain. Some people have no symptoms. For others, the first symptom may be a sudden cardiac arrest. However, the more signs and symptoms you have, the more likely you are to have a heart attack.

Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but many have warning signs and symptoms hours, days, or weeks in advance. Early warning may include recurrent chest pain or pressure (angina) that starts due to activity and is relieved by rest. Angina is caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart.

Caution: Appropriate time to see a doctor

Act immediately. Some people wait too long because they do not recognize the important signs and symptoms. Follow the steps outlined below:

Call for emergency medical help. If you suspect that you are having a heart attack, do not hesitate. Call your local emergency number immediately. If you do not have access to emergency medical services, ask someone to take you to the nearest hospital.

If there is no other option, just run yourself. Because your condition may deteriorate, self-driving puts you and others at risk.
Take nitroglycerin if your doctor tells you to. Take it as directed while waiting for emergency help.

Take aspirin if recommended. Taking aspirin during a heart attack can reduce heart damage by helping your blood to clot.

Aspirin may interact with other medicines, but do not take aspirin unless your doctor or emergency medical staff recommends it. Don’t be late to call the emergency service number to take aspirin.

What to do if you see someone who may have a heart attack

If you see someone unconscious and you believe they have had a heart attack, call for emergency medical help first. Then check if the person is breathing and has a vibration. If the person does not breathe or you do not find a vibration, then you should start CPR.

In a fairly fast rhythm, push hard and fast on the person’s chest – about 100 to 120 compressions per minute.

If you are not trained in CPR, doctors recommend only chest compressions. If you are trained in CPR, you can open the trachea and go for respiratory rescue.

What is a heart attack

Causes of heart attack

A heart attack occurs when one or more of your coronary arteries become blocked. Over time, fatty deposits, including cholesterol, form a substance called plaque, which can constrict arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition, known as coronary artery disease, causes most heart attacks.

During a heart attack, a blade may rupture and release cholesterol and other substances into the bloodstream. Blood clots form at the site of rupture. If the clot is large, it can block blood flow to the coronary arteries, depriving the heart of oxygen and nutrients (ischemia).

You may have a complete or partial blockage of the coronary arteries.

Complete blockage means you have ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Partial blockage means you have a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI). Diagnosis and treatment may vary depending on what type of disease you have.

Another cause of heart attack is coronary artery spasm which stops the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Use of tobacco and illicit drugs, such as cocaine, can lead to life-threatening seizures.

Infection with COVID-19 can damage your heart in a way that can lead to a heart attack.

Risk factors for heart attack

Some factors contribute to the formation of unwanted fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) which narrow the arteries throughout your body. You can improve or eliminate many of these risk factors to reduce the chances of having a first or second heart attack.

Risk factors for heart attack include:

Age:

Men 45 years and older and women 55 years and older are more likely to have a heart attack than young men and women.

Tobacco:

This includes long-term exposure to smoking and secondhand smoke.

High blood pressure:

Over time, high blood pressure can damage the arteries that lead to your heart. High blood pressure that occurs with other conditions, such as obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes, increases your risk.
High blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) are more likely to narrow the arteries. High levels of triglycerides, a type of blood fat associated with your diet, also increase your risk of heart attack. However, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) may reduce your risk.

Obesity:

Obesity is associated with high blood cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing just 10% of your body weight can reduce this risk.

Diabetes:

Inadequate production of hormones secreted by your pancreas (insulin) or not responding properly to insulin increases your body’s blood sugar levels, increasing your risk of heart attack.

Metabolic Syndrome:

This syndrome occurs when you have obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. If you have metabolic syndrome, you are twice as likely to have heart disease.
Family history of heart attack. If your siblings, parents or grandparents have had an early heart attack (55 for men and 65 for women), your risk may increase.

Lack of physical activity:

Inactivation contributes to high blood cholesterol levels and obesity. People who exercise regularly maintain good heart health, including low blood pressure.

Stress:

You can respond to stress in ways that increase your risk of heart attack.

Illegal drug use:

Using stimulants such as cocaine or amphetamines can cause a coronary artery disease that can lead to a heart attack.

History of preeclampsia:

This condition causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and increases the lifetime risk of heart disease.

An autoimmune condition:

Having a condition like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can increase your risk of heart attack.

What is a heart attack

The complications of a heart attack

Complications are often related to the damage to your heart during a heart attack, which can happen.

Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias). Electrical “short circuits” may develop, resulting in abnormal heart rhythms, some of which can be severe and lead to death.
Heart failure. A heart attack can cause so much damage to the heart tissue that the rest of the heart muscle cannot pump enough blood from your heart. Heart failure can be temporary, or it can be a chronic condition that can result in extensive and permanent damage to your heart.
Sudden cardiac arrest. Without warning, an electrical disturbance causes your heart to stop beating, causing an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). A heart attack suddenly increases the risk of cardiac arrest, which can lead to death without immediate treatment.

Ways to prevent heart attack

It’s never too late to take action to prevent a heart attack – even if you already have one. Here are some ways to prevent heart attack.

Medicine. Taking medication can reduce your risk of subsequent heart attacks and help improve the functioning of your damaged heart. Continue taking what your doctor advises and ask your doctor how often you need to be monitored.
Lifestyle factor. You know the drill: Maintain a healthy weight with a heart-healthy diet, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, manage stress and control conditions that can cause heart attacks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

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