More than a million people have heart attacks each year. A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is permanent damage to the heart muscle.
A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked, most often by a build-up of fat, cholesterol and other substances, which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart (coronary arteries). Heart attacks most often occur as a result of coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease).
CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque (plak) builds up inside the coronary arteries. The interrupted blood flow can damage or destroy part of the heart muscle. It is a serious medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. Lack of blood to the heart can seriously damage the heart muscle. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to heart. If the blockage isn’t treated quickly, the portion of heart muscle fed by the artery begins to die.
- The heart muscle requires a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood to nourish it. The coronary arteries provide the heart with this critical blood supply. If anybody have coronary artery disease, those arteries become narrow and blood cannot flow as well as they should. Fatty matter, calcium, proteins, and inflammatory cells build up within the arteries to form plaques of different sizes. The plaque deposits are hard on the outside and soft and mushy on the inside.
- When the plaque is hard, the outer shell cracks (plaque rupture), platelets (disc-shaped particles in the blood that aid clotting) come to the area, and blood clots form around the plaque. If a blood clot totally blocks the artery, the heart muscle becomes “starved” for oxygen. Within a short time, death of heart muscle cells occurs, causing permanent damage.
Causes of Heart Attack
A heart attack occurs when one or more of coronary arteries become blocked. Over time, a coronary artery can narrow from the buildup of various substances, including cholesterol (atherosclerosis). This condition, known as coronary artery disease, causes most heart attacks. During a heart attack, one of these plaques can rupture and spill cholesterol and other substances into the bloodstream. A blood clot forms at the site of the rupture. If large enough, the clot can completely block the flow of blood through the coronary artery.
Another cause of a heart attack is a spasm of a coronary artery that shuts down blood flow to part of the heart muscle. Use of tobacco and of illicit drugs, such as cocaine, can cause a life-threatening spasm. A heart attack can also occur due to a tear in the heart artery (spontaneous coronary artery dissection).
Some of the most common warning symptoms of a heart attack for both men and women are:
- Chest Pain or Discomfort- Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest. The discomfort usually lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. It also can feel like heartburn or indigestion.
- Upper Body Discomfort- In this patient may feel pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach (above the belly button).
- Shortness of Breath- This may be only symptom, or it may occur before or along with chest pain or discomfort. It can occur when doing rest or performing a little bit of physical activity.
Other possible symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Feeling unusually tired for no reason, sometimes for days
- Nausea (feeling sick to the stomach) and vomiting
- Light-headedness or sudden dizziness
- Any sudden, new symptom or a change in the pattern of symptoms
Some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms (a “silent” myocardial infarction). A silent MI can occur in anyone, but it is more common among people with diabetes.
Who’s at Risk of Heart Attack
Risk factors for CHD, many of which are related to each other are:
Carbon monoxide (from the smoke) and nicotine both put a strain on the heart by making it work faster. They also increase risk of blood clots. Other chemicals in cigarette smoke damage the lining of coronary arteries, leading to furring of the arteries. If anybody smoke, than he increases risk of developing heart disease by 24%.
If we eat a diet high in saturated fat, than our blood cholesterol levels will rise. This leads to an increase the risk of CHD and heart attacks.
High Blood Pressure Heart Attack
Having poorly controlled high blood pressure (hypertension) can weaken the coronary arteries, making them more vulnerable to CHD. The higher blood pressure, the greater the risk of CHD and heart attacks.
The increased levels of blood glucose associated with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes can damage the coronary arteries, making them more vulnerable to CHD. It is estimated that people with diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop CHD than the general population.
Being Overweight or Obese
Being overweight or obese does not directly increase the risk of CHD and heart attacks, but leads to related risk factors that do. In particular, people who are overweight or obese:
- Have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure
- Tend to have higher levels of cholesterol as a result of eating a high-fat diet
- Have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Lack of Exercise
Lack of exercise is not directly related to an increased risk of CHD and heart attacks. However, it is linked to an increased risk of being overweight or obese and having high blood pressure.
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause high blood pressure and increased blood cholesterol levels, thereby increasing the risk of developing CHD.
If anybody has a first-degree relative (a parent, brother or sister) with a history of heart disease – such as angina, heart attack or stroke than he has twice possibilities to develop similar problems, compared to the general population.
Research has found that exposure to air pollution specifically traffic pollution can cause a significant rise in chance of developing CHD and, in turn, heart attacks.
Less Common Causes
Some less common causes are described as:
Stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines (speed) and methamphetamines (crystal meth) can cause coronary arteries to narrow, restricting blood supply and triggering a heart attack. Heart attacks from the use of cocaine are one of the most common causes of sudden death in young people.
Lack of Oxygen in the Blood (hypoxia)
If levels of oxygen in the blood decrease due to carbon monoxide poisoning or a loss of normal lung function, the heart will receive un-oxygenated blood. This will result in the heart muscles being damaged, triggering a heart attack.
An aneurysm is a weakness in a blood vessel wall. If the blood vessel wall becomes weakened beyond a certain point, it will no longer be able to withstand the pressure of blood running through it and will rupture (burst).
Sometimes, an aneurysm can develop inside the coronary arteries, although this is much less common than other types of aneurysm. If a coronary artery aneurysm ruptures, the blood supply to the heart will stop, triggering a heart attack.
Coronary artery disease is a major risk factor for heart attacks. Here’s how to reduce risk of heart attack:
Quit Smoking- Smoking is a major cause of heart disease and heart attack. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. If anybody already do, make plans to begin a smoking cessation program. Because nicotine narrows and restricts blood vessels
Lower Blood Pressure- High blood pressure, called hypertension, significantly increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. To lower blood pressure, try to eat a heart-healthy diet and engage in regular physical activity.
Control Diabetes- Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks. So it is necessary that we maintain our blood sugar levels.
Improve Cholesterol- Cholesterol levels can be improved with exercise and a healthy diet low in unhealthy fats and alcohol.
- High levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol increase risk of heart disease.
- The High levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol protect against heart disease.
- High levels of total cholesterol also increase risk of heart disease.
Maintain a healthy weight- Obesity and being overweight are major risk factors for a host of diseases so maintaining weight is necessary.
Exercise Regularly- Regular exercise can prevent heart disease, slow down the progression of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels.
Eat Right- Try to eat less trans fat and increase your intake of omega-3 fats such as those found in salmon. Try to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Reduce Stress- Practice a relaxation technique such as yoga or meditation, and take time out every day for a few quiet minutes to unwind and appreciate life.
Get Social Support- Stay in touch with friends and family.
Manage Anger- Seek ways to control feelings of anger and hostility these emotions may add to heart attack risk.
In Case of Heart Attack
A heart attack can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time. Many people think a heart attack will never happen to them and take their heart health for granted. In case of heart attack we can take quick action. Quick action can prevent a heart attack from being fatal.
Time is of the essence when we’re dealing with the heart. Research shows that people who get to the emergency room within 30 minutes of having a heart attack have a far better chance of survival than those who seek treatment hours later. In fact, there are two things we can do immediately if someone has a heart attack that could greatly improve their chances of surviving a heart attack.
- Call for an ambulance! the first thing person want to do is call for an ambulance and then stay at the patient’s side until help arrives. If the person is unconscious, than call 108, and then begin CPR. If anybody think that he get a heart attack, call for an ambulance and don’t attempt to drive himself to the emergency room.
- Next give the person an aspirin to chew on until the ambulance arrives. Chewing the aspirin (not swallowing it) helps to get it into the bloodstream quicker. Person also want to make sure that he is giving the patient a true aspirin, that’s because aspirin is a highly effective blood thinner.