What is a Heart Attack?
In a healthy heart, coronary circulation supplies the oxygenated blood to the walls of the heart.
However, the accumulation of fat deposits, especially higher cholesterol levels, can lead to plaque formation in the blood vessels.
This pathological narrowing of arteries is called atherosclerosis, which eventually leads to coronary artery disease. This is one of the most common causes of a heart attack.
While a person is experiencing a heart attack, the plaque may break down into its constituents, which are released into the bloodstream. A blood clot may form at the site of rupture.
The blood clot may completely or partially block the blood supply through the coronary artery. Thus, the heart doesn't receive enough nourishment to function well, also called Ischemia.
Another less common cause of blood supply is the spasm in a blood vessel. This also minimises the supply of blood to the walls of the heart.
The onset of the symptoms of a heart attack varies depending on the severity of the condition. Some people experience symptoms all of a sudden, while for some, symptoms may develop over a few days. The common symptoms include:
Chest pain: The recurrent chest pain at the center or left side of the heart is one of the major symptoms. A feeling of pressure, burden, and compression may be felt.
Shortness of breath: The chest pain is accompanied by wheezing or a state of breathlessness.
Referred pain in areas such as arms, neck, jaws, and back
Risk Factors of Heart Attack
It is important to understand the risk factors that increase the chances of a heart attack. Some of the risk factors are often uncontrollable such as family history, age, genetics, etc. Other risk factors might be manageable. The major ones include:
Age greater than 65 increases the chances of developing this condition
Sex as males are at a higher risk of developing this condition
Family history of other cardiometabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes mellitus type 2, and hypertension may increase the chances
Higher levels of cholesterol
Complications of a Heart Attack
Heart attack can disrupt the normal physiological parameters of the heart, such as the sinus rhythm of the heart. This condition is referred to as arrhythmia.
Heart attack can also cause permanent damage to the heart tissue. Thus, a heart attack may lead to heart failure.
A lot of other pathophysiological conditions, such as valvular defects, may arise due to heart failure.
First thing to do if someone is having a heart attack
If you are experiencing the symptoms or seeing someone around you suffering from an attack, call the ambulance immediately! While the ambulance arrives, if you are an expert, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) so that the patient's heart continues beating till they reach the hospital.
What to Expect from the Doctor
The doctor will likely run you through an electrocardiogram (ECG) to get a detailed know-how of your electrical activity of the heart.
Cardiac catheterisation is also one of the common ways to diagnose multiple changes in the heart. Once it is evident that you may have developed a heart attack, doctors may discuss some procedures that will help relieve the pain and minimise the chances of another heart attack. These include angioplasty and stent, heart valve surgery, heart bypass surgery, pacemaker implantation, and a heart transplant. The purpose of all these surgical and non-surgical procedures is to ensure an adequate amount of blood supply to the walls of the heart via coronary arteries. Common medications often prescribed to patients with heart attacks are antiplatelets, anticoagulants, aspirin, nitroglycerine, etc. The goal of all these medications is to either make the blood very thin or to dissolve the clots.
Lifestyle Changes that you Should Adopt
Simple lifestyle changes can eliminate the risk factors that lead to a heart attack. The most lethal activity for a lot of cardiovascular diseases is smoking and alcohol consumption. Quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake. This can keep your heart healthy and away from a lot of diseases. Start a healthy diet. Reduce diet rich in LDL or bad cholesterol as it increases the chances of developing atherosclerosis. Start exercising regularly as this keeps your heart active and healthy.
If you have other chronic conditions such as diabetes mellitus or hypertension, manage them properly.
Your Next Steps
Diagnosis of this condition can be stressful and depressing. You might be brimmed with a lot of thoughts about your life ahead. But it is important to keep in mind that with proper medical attention by your cardiologist, you can live a good life. Follow the advice from your doctor about his treatment plan for you. Make necessary lifestyle changes so that you are on a preventive side. With the right path, you can eliminate the chances of developing myocardial infarction (MI) again in the future.