Heart attacks happen to tens of thousands of Americans every year. Many heart attack victims survive, go back to work and enjoy a normal life.
Heart attack is a different condition than heart failure or cardiac arrest. Although all three conditions affect the heart muscle, they have different causes and treatments.
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that delivers oxygen to the heart muscle is cut off or severely reduced. The American Heart Association (americanheart.org) explains: “This happens when the arteries that supply the heart with blood get a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that combine to form plaque. The formation of plaque in the arteries is called atherosclerosis. When a plaque in the heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque. The blood clot can block the arteries and shut off blood flow toe the heart muscle. When the heart muscle is starved for oxygen and nutrietns..,.damage or death of part of the heart muscle occurs. This is called a heart attack, or myocardial infarction.”
Heart attack victims don’t get warning of an impending heart attack because atherosclerosis has no symptoms.
The heart muscle that has lost blood supple begins to die. The amount of damage varies, depending on many factors. Damage from a heart attack does not repair itself, but a tough scar forms as the heat heals. It takes four to eight weeks for the heart to repair itself. The heart is a tough muscle, the part of the heart that nod die will continue to work, although it will probably be weaker, because it cannot pump as much blood as usual. Most heat attack survivors live with a certain amount of coronary artery disease, meaning they will have to make important lifestyle changes to prevent a future attack.
Coronary heat disease is the number one killer in America. It’s important to know the risk factors and warming signs. When warning signs appear, a fast response can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Heart Attack Warning Signs, from The American Heart Association (americanheart.org).
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, and obvious. However, there are other heart attacks that start slowly, with only mile pain or discomfort. People ofter wait too long before getting help. Following are the signs that a heart attack is happening:
Chest discomfort: discomfort int he center of the chest, lasting more than a few minutes. It can also go away and come back. It reportedly can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. symptoms include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
Shortness of breath: with or without chest discomfort
Other signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, lightheartedness.
The most common symptom for men and women is chest pain or discomfort. Women are more likely that men to experience some of the other common symptoms.
Even though there are rarely symptoms of a heart attack, there are risk factors. There are some risk factors that can’t be changed. there are other risk factors that can be modified or treated before a heart attack happens. Factors that can’t be changed include: increasing age, male sex (gender), heredity, race.
There are major risk factors that can be modified or controlled. Changeable risk factors include: smoking, exposure to second hand smoke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, overweight and diabetes mellitus. Other stress factors that can contribute to risk include stress and alcohol
Most heart attack patients are able to go back to work with weeks. After a heart attack is is normal to experience depression for a few months. Depression, fear and anger are normal responses to the event. The family is also like to feel anxiety, as the sudden illness has a profound emotional effect.
The heart attack patient can aid in their own recovery by getting into cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehabilitation programs ofter take place at hospitals/ The programs are designed to help the patient with lifestyle changes to prevent another incident. Lifestyle changes include avoiding smoking, becoming more active, good nutrition, healthy weight and avoiding alcohol and stress.
This information is not intended to substitute for medical advice. If you have a medical conditin, contact a doctor.
American Heart Association