A Short Guide to Heart Attack

You call it a heart attack when blood cannot enter one’s heart, leading to oxygen deprivation in it. This can damage or kill the cells of the heart. Restoring the blood flow quickly is the key to recovery. So, one need to avail medical help if he or she is experiencing heart attack symptoms. This article provides a comprehensive look into the heart attack including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, risk factors, and life post- heart attack.

Causes of heart attack
Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood to your heart. Inside the walls of the arteries, plaque (fatty material and cholesterol) can build up, restricting the free flow of blood. Often times, heart attack occurs when a piece of plaque breaks off, and a blood clot forms around it, blocking the artery.

Symptoms of heart attack
The symptoms of heart attack include-

  • Discomfort, pressure and pain in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Sick feeling in the stomach
  • Pain in the shoulders, jaw or neck

The symptoms of heart attack may differ in men and women. Men often feel pain radiating down their left arm, and break out in a cold sweat.

Women have neck or back pain, shortness of breath and heartburn; stomach problems like feeling queasy, upset stomach, and throwing up; and feeling of tiredness, dizziness and light headedness. Women may also experience sleeping troubles and flu-like symptoms a couple of weeks before a heart attack. Some 435,000 women in the U.S. get heart attacks annually. Many a times they are dismissed as something minor because of the mild symptoms exhibited.

What to do in case of a heart attack?
When you or your loved one experience the symptoms of a heart attack, you should call your medical emergency immediately. Getting medical treatment within 90 minutes of the symptoms is likely to increase your survival rate. And, before the medical help reaches you, chew and swallow an aspirin, unless you are allergic to it. This will reduce the risk of a blood clot. If a heart attack patient becomes unconscious, you can double his or her chances of survival by giving hands-only CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Diagnosis of heart attack

Doctors diagnose heart attacks by checking your heart’s electrical activity through an EKG or ECG (Electrocardiogram). This also reveals which artery is blocked or clogged. Physicians also diagnose heart attacks through blood tests which look for certain proteins that are release by heart cells when they die.

Treatment of heart attack

Doctors act immediately on the heart attack patient to get blood flowing to his heart again. He may be given medications that dissolve blood clots. They may also administer a procedure known as coronary angiogram. In this procedure, they insert a thin tube with a tiny balloon through your artery. This flattens the plaque against the artery’s walls, and thus opens up the blockage. Often, this is followed by placing a stent (a small, mesh tube) in your artery keep it open.

Risk factors of a heart attack

  • Aging
  • Gender: Men are more likely to have a heart attack than women.
  • Heredity: A heart disease history in the family increases one’s risk.
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • High cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity

Prevention of heart attack
Smokers should stop smoking to instantly lower the chances of a heart attack by a third. You should also avoid exposing yourself to second-hand smoke. Eating rightly and getting enough exercise can also prevent a heart attack. Your daily diet should include lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains for maintaining healthy arteries.

And you should get thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day, 5 days a week, says the American Heart Association. Some people would benefit from taking an aspirin daily. A doctor would let you know if you need it. Further, you should manage your stress through positive ways.

Life after a heart attack

After providing you with treatment for your heart attack, the hospital will send you home in a few days. In the next few weeks, you can recover and get back to your normal daily life. Many cardiac rehabilitation programs are available to help you get fit and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. Medical counselors can render their support if you are worried about a recurring attack. You can also benefit from performing gentle physical exercises, meditation, and breathing exercises an hour a day, thrice a week. These would help by lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, and the number of AFib (Artrial Fibrillation) episodes after three months.

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