What is a Heart Attack ?
Heart attacks are not uncommon, in fact every 34 seconds someone in the United States has one. In the United States, heart attacks are still the leading killer of both men and women. So what happens when someone has a heart attack? While there are different levels of heart attacks, the underlying cause is the same; blood flow is cut off from the heart due to blockage from a blood clot that will not allow the oxygen-rich blood to get to one or more sections of the heart muscle. This lack of blood flow starves the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients, and is called ischemia. When death or damage of the heart muscle occurs as a result of this it is called myocardial infarction or a heart attack.
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack ?
Most heart attacks start slow, with mild discomfort or pain and are less frequently sudden and intense like many people assume. Quite often people are not even aware that they are having a heart attack and wait too long before seeking medical help. Here are some signs to look for that you or someone you love is experiencing a heart attack:
– Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
– Pain or discomfort in the back, jaw, stomach, or both arms
– Chest discomfort is most common and often occurs in the center of the chest, lasting a few minutes or starting and stopping off and on. This can also resemble a squeezing, uncomfortable pressure, fullness, or pain.
At the first sign or symptom of a heart attack, medical attention should be immediately sought. Remember: quick action can save your life or the life of someone else. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms calling 9-1-1 is the fastest way to receive life saving treatment. A medic can start treatment right away and they will often get you to the emergency room much faster than by car.
What Causes a Heart Attack ?
Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart caused by a build up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances that forms plaque. When plaque has been built up within the arteries over many years breaks off, a blood clot forms around the plaque. This blood clot is what stops the flow of blood to the heart and causes a heart attack. Plaque build up along the artery walls of the heart (coronary arteries) is also known as Coronary Heart Disease, or CHD. People with CHD are more likely to suffer from heart attacks than those who do not suffer from this type of atherosclerosis.
Heart attacks can be caused by pre-existing conditions, while others who suffer from heart attacks later develop additional cardiac issues. Another cause of a heart attack is the tightening of a coronary artery. This may be a severe spasm that occurs within the artery. This can be linked to heart failure, a condition in which the body does not get enough blood. This is due, in part, to the heart’s inability to pump enough blood. Severe muscle damage, which may occur following a heart attack, can damage the heart to the point that it is unable to pump enough blood or even beat properly (arrhythmias). The most common form of arrhythmia is Atrial Fibrillation. See you cardiologist if you are have one of these pre-existing conditions.