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HEART ATTACKS- Know it all

Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of disability and death in the world. This risk may be caused elevated due to various factors, called risk factors. There are some of these that we cannot control, but there are many that we can. Having the proper knowledge can help lower the risk of heart diseases.

What causes a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs due to a lack of blood supply to the musculature of the heart. This is mostly due to the deposition of fats and cholesterol in the coronary arteries that form plaques which cause narrowing of the lumen of arteries. A rupture of this plaque leads to the spilling of deposited substances in the bloodstream, further leading to clot formation. This clot can cause constriction of the arteries and block blood flow, depleting the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart.

Different methods of diagnosis and treatment are implemented depending on the type of heart attack.

  • ST-elevation/complete blockage
  • Non-ST elevation/partial blockage

Common symptoms of heart attack

  • Acute pain in the chest that goes and comes back in short spurts
  • Weaknesses, fainting
  • Cold sweating
  • Discomfort in body parts like neck and jaw
  • Pain in the arms and shoulders (predominantly left)
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Coughing or wheezing

There may also be the development of,

  • Hypoxemia: Drop in the oxygen level in the blood
  • Pulmonary edema: Accumulation of fluid in the lungs
  • Cardiogenic shock: A sudden drop in blood pressure due to insufficient blood supply

These symptoms may vary in type and intensity in different persons.

Complications of a heart attack

  • Arrhythmias: Irregular heartbeat which may be too quick or too slow.
  • Heart failure: The inability of the heart to pump blood sufficiently.
  • Cardiac arrest: Sudden stoppage of the heart.

What are the factors that we cannot change?

  • Arrhythmias: Irregular heartbeat which may be too quick or too slow.
  • Heart failure: The inability of the heart to pump blood sufficiently.
  • Cardiac arrest: Sudden stoppage of the heart.

• Age

The risk of heart diseases increases with advancing age. It is higher for males above the age of 45 and females above the age of 55 years.

• Sex

Women are affected in different ways than men.

For example,

  • The risk decreases for women due to the secretion of estrogen
  • In the case of diabetes, the risk is more in women than in men

• Family history

Persons who have close relatives suffering from heart disease in the early stage of life are at a higher risk.

What can be done to lower heart risk?

Fortunately, there are many factors, primary lifestyle changes that can be modified to reduce the chances of getting a heart attack.

These are as follows-

1. Normal blood pressure

High blood pressure (above 140/90 mmHg) can contribute to an increased risk of a heart attack. It should be checked regularly for most adults.

2. Controlled cholesterol and triglyceride levels

High levels of harmful saturated fats and cholesterol (low-density cholesterol) can lead to coronary artery disease by causing clogging and constriction.

3. Healthy weight

Obesity forms a principal risk factor for heart attack. Controlling weight and maintaining an appropriate body mass index can help in reducing risk.

4. Balanced diet

Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting trans-fatty acids, high sodium food and added sugars can significantly reduce the risk of a heart attack. The DASH (diet approaches to stop hypertension) can be effective and useful.

5. Regular exercise

Exercise strengthens the heart and improves blood circulation. It also helps to maintain a healthy weight which can be beneficial to prevent heart attack.

6. Limit alcohol

Alcohol adds extra calories, causes weight gain, and raises blood pressure. It can cause an increase in heart rate temporarily and may cause arrhythmia, weakened heart muscle, and hypertension in the long run.

7. Stop smoking

Nicotine in cigarettes can transiently cause constriction of coronary arteries, thus elevating the risk of heart attack and stroke.

8. Manage stress

Stress can trigger heart attack due to abnormal hormonal secretion and lead to the development of harmful habits like overeating, heavy drinking, and smoking, all of which may elevate the risk of a heart attack.

9. Control of diabetes

People suffering from diabetes have a doubled risk of heart attacks. Increased level of blood glucose damages blood vessels and nerves and can cause harm to the cardiovascular system.

10. Sleep well

Good sleep helps to regulate stress hormones in the body. Any imbalance in the nervous and hormonal control due to poor quality of sleep may lead to hypertension and an increased risk of heart attacks.

Preparation of an appointment

Heart attacks commonly occur in situations of emergency. To check concern about the risk of a heart attack the risk factors must be checked by consulting a doctor. In cases of high risk refer to a cardiologist.

Before an appointment make a list of the following things-

Ask the following questions to the doctor

  • What tests are required to determine heart health?
  • What food should be eaten or avoided?
  • How severe are the symptoms?

Diagnosis of a heart attack

  • Physical examination of the thorax (inspection, palpation, percussion, auscultation)
  • Review of medical and family histories
  • Conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG) to monitor the heart’s electrical activity
  • Blood tests to see evidence of muscular damage. (Cardiac troponin, creatine kinase)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Cardiac catheterization to know the area of plaque development
  • Dye dilution technique-to view blockages in blood flow
  • MRI (To view images of heart and chest)

Treatment of heart attack

The procedures to treat heart attack may be surgical or non-surgical.

Some common procedures are-

  • Angioplasty: Using a balloon to open a blocked artery
  • Stent: Keep the artery open by inserting a wire mesh tube
  • Bypass surgery: Diverting blood flow around the blockage
  • Heart valve surgery: Restoration of leaking valves to help to pump of the heart
  • Pacemaker: A small device is implanted to maintain a regular flow of impulses
  • Heart transplant: Complete replacement of heart in severe cases of permanent tissue damage

Medications prescribed by the doctor to treat heart attack include:

  • Aspirin
  • Nitro-glycerin
  • Beta-blocker
  • Statins
  • Anticoagulants
  • Thrombolytic
  • ACE inhibitors

Emergencies

Heart attacks can prove to be life threatening if not given proper attention. Effective treatment can increase chances of survival whereas delaying treatment can prove to be fatal.

Call 108 (INDIA), 911 (USA)

  • Explain the situation and location clearly
  • Do not panic and stay calm
  • Follow the instructions of the emergency team

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

This is a life-saving procedure in cases of cardiac emergencies. Although challenging to remember and perform the steps correctly, it is a simple and convenient way of first aid.

Before doing CPR-

  • Open airway
  • Check to breathe
  • Consciousness

Stop CPR if it seems unsafe or you become exhausted.

Being aware of the perils of vicious diseases like heart attacks, we must take charge of our health. The best way to avoid conditions like a heart attack is healthy living, timely check-up and diagnosis, being acquainted with common treatments, and staying calm in dealing with emergencies. To acquire more insight, connect to our article on Healthy heart, happy life”.

Connect to our 24×7 India Helpline on (033) 4190 3616 and our team would be glad to assist you!!!

Stay Home, Stay Safe!

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