A heart attack (also called an myocardial infarction) is when a blockage in the coronary artery prevents blood from reaching the heart. The heart continues to beat, however, without blood inside it simply injures itself. As the heart keeps trying to beat the injury will get worse and worse. Within twenty minutes the damage will be irreparable, but the heart will still continue to die for six to eight more hours. When the heart attack has finally finished, there is nothing left inside the chest except a useless lump of scar tissue.
Atherosclerosis is when cholesterol plaque builds up in the arteries. Sometimes the plaque ruptures forming a blood clot that blocks the artery, causing a heart attack. Nobody is sure why the plaque ruptures, however, high blood pressure, smoking, and high LDL cholesterol all seem to be common triggers.
Other Causes of Acute Chest Pain
An anxiety or panic attack can closely mimic a heart attack. Chest pain with shortness of breath, fever, and a cough can be a sign of pneumonia or pleurisy. A pulmonary embolism or a collapsed lung can also cause chest pain. Pain that is worse when bending over or lying down may come from heartburn.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
The most common symptom is a chest pain or pressure that lasts for several minutes accompanied by pain that radiates down the left arm or the side of the neck. Recurring chest pains are a common warning sign that should not be ignored. Other warning signs of a heart attack include:
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain episodes happening more frequently
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety or a feeling of impending doom
Women may experience these extra symptoms:
Not every symptom is always present,in some cases, symptoms subside only to return later. All too often, they are ignored or attributed to indigestion. Studies show that half of heart attack victims wait more than two hours before getting help a delay that frequently proves fatal. Each year, about 500,000 Americans die from heart attacks, 60 percent within the first hour. Most of the early deaths are from ventricular fibrillation, an uncoordinated, spasmodic twitching of heart muscle that makes pumping blood impossible.
Diagnostic Studies And Procedures
Emergency care for a patient who may be having a heart attack is a fight for time, with diagnosis and treatment taking place virtually simultaneously. Even before reaching the hospital, an emergency medical team may perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Many hospital emergency rooms have a coronary care area for people with suspected heart attacks. There, a special team first makes sure that the person is breathing and has an adequate pulse rate and blood pressure. Then they perform any necessary life saving maneuvers; these may include defibrillation, the administering of an electric shock to the heart to stop ventricular fibrillation. They then connect the patient to a heart rhythm monitor, so that an electrocardiogram (ECG) can show the pattern of the heartbeat. The team also administers oxygen, drugs to restore normal heart rhythm, and perhaps a pain medication. Further diagnostic measures are likely to include an angiogram, a special X-ray study of the arteries, to determine whether one or more coronary arteries is blocked. Blood tests include measurement of enzymes released by damaged muscle. A rise in these enzymes helps confirm a heart attack in cases for which symptoms and the ECG are not so clear cut.
Alternative therapies can be invaluable in recovering from a heart attack. In particular, exercise conditioning is an integral part. Many hospitals offer such programs, as do heart and cardio fitness clinics. A physical therapist can also provide guidance and supervise a therapeutic exercise regimen. The goal is to develop a life long exercise routine that can be done safely at home or in a health club without medical supervision. Other helpful approaches include:
Stress reduction is an important aspect of cardiac recovery. Some hospitals and many rehabilitation programs offer instruction in meditation, yoga, biofeedback training, and other relaxation techniques.
[ Read: How Yoga Helps To Prevent Heart Disease ]
Even before leaving the hospital, a heart attack patient will be given specific dietary instructions. Depending upon individual factors, these may include a reduced calorie diet to lose excess weight; reductions in fat and cholesterol to help prevent atherosclerosis; sodium restriction to help control blood pressure; and vitamin E supplements, believed to reduce the risk of a future heart attack.
[ Read: How Red Wine Helps The Heart ]
- Call a Doctor Immediately – If you do not get to a doctor in twenty minutes or less you might die! Being diagnosed early is another important step as medications to prevent heart attacks exist. Do not ignore warning signs like heart palpitations or recurring chest pain: see a doctor immediately!
- Do Not Smoke – Smoking the is leading cause of heart attacks. You should not smoke especially if heart attacks are in your family history or you have had a heart attack.
- Exercise Regularly – Exercising builds up all your muscles including your heart. A healthier heart is less prone to heart attacks.
- Take Your Medication – If you have any sort of heart medications, be sure to take them as directed. Do not stop unless a doctor tell you to.
- Keep an Eye on your cholesterol – Regular blood cholesterol checks can spot troublesome plaques before they turn into heart attacks.