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Home > Symptom > Heart Attack Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Heart Attack Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Heart Attack Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Overview of Heart Attack

When the blood supply to the heart is significantly reduced or blocked, a heart attack happens. The build-up of fat, cholesterol, and other chemicals in the heart's (coronary) arteries is typically what causes the obstruction. Fatty, cholesterol-containing formations are known as plaques. It is known as atherosclerosis when plaque accumulates in the arteries.

A plaque may occasionally rupture and generate a clot that restricts blood flow. A reduction in blood flow can damage or even destroy a portion of the heart muscle.

A heart attack is sometimes referred to as a myocardial infarction.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is a very extremely dangerous condition caused by a lack of blood flow to your heart muscle. Although there are numerous potential causes, a blockage in one or more of your heart's arteries is the most common one. The injured cardiac muscle will start to deteriorate without blood flow. A heart attack might result in lasting cardiac damage and perhaps death if blood flow isn't rapidly restored.

A heart attack is a serious medical crisis that endangers life. Your chances of having a successful procedure increase with the speed at which you may receive medical care that will return your heart's blood flow to normal.

How Common are Heart Attacks?

In India, 635,000 people experience a new heart attack each year. Every year, over 300,000 people get a second heart attack. Heart attacks and other forms of coronary heart disease account for about one in seven fatalities in India.

What Happens During a Heart Attack?

Blood flow to a portion of your heart stops or is significantly reduced during a heart attack, which results in the death of that portion of your heart muscle. The heart's complete pumping cycle may be interfered with if a section of the heart becomes incapable of pumping because it is dying from a lack of blood flow. Blood flow to the rest of your body is reduced or even stopped as a result, which can be fatal if it is not immediately fixed.

What are the Types of Heart Attacks?

One of the following types of coronary artery disease causes a heart attack:

STEMI

An rapid medical response is required for a STEMI heart attack. These attacks take place when a significant section of the coronary artery is completely blocked, preventing the heart from receiving blood. The heart muscle suffers gradual harm as a result, which could eventually lead it to stop working.

NSTEMI

When the coronary artery is partially stopped and blood flow is significantly constrained, NSTEMI heart attacks happen. Despite being less hazardous than STEMI heart attacks, they can nonetheless result in long-term harm.

Coronary artery spasm

Other names for these spasms include unstable angina or silent heart attacks. They take place when the arteries that provide blood to the heart constrict, stopping or limiting blood flow.

The symptoms are milder than those of other forms of coronary artery disease and do not result in long-term harm.

A coronary artery spasm can be mistaken for a minor ailment, such indigestion. Having a coronary artery spasm, however, can make a heart attack more likely to be serious.

What are the Causes of Heart Attacks?

Your heart muscle needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood. The vital blood supply to your heart is provided by your coronary arteries. Your arteries narrow when you have coronary artery disease, which lowers blood flow. Your blood supply is cut off when you have a heart attack.

In your arteries, plaques are created by the build-up of fat, calcium, proteins, and inflammatory cells. These plaque deposits have a hard exterior and a soft, mushy interior.

When the plaque is hard, the outer shell cracks. We refer to this as a rupture. Blood clots form around the plaque when platelets, which are disc-shaped components of your blood that aid in clotting, travel to the area. Your heart muscle will become oxygen-starved if a blood clot plugs an artery. There is long-term damage as a result of the muscle cells dying quickly.

Rarely, a heart attack can also be brought on by a spasm in your coronary artery. Your arteries constrict or spasm intermittently during this coronary spasm, cutting off the blood supply to your heart muscle (ischemia). Even if you do not have severe coronary artery disease, it can nonetheless happen while you are at rest.

Your heart muscle receives blood from each coronary artery in a different location. The size of the area that the blocked artery supplies and the interval between the attack and treatment determine how much muscle damage occurs.

After a heart attack, your heart muscle quickly begins to repair. About 8 weeks pass throughout this. In the affected area, a scar develops just like a skin wound. However, the recently produced scar tissue exhibits abnormal behaviour. As a result, your heart's capacity to pump reduces after a heart attack. The size and placement of the scar will determine how much that ability to pump is impacted.

What are the Symptoms of Heart Attacks?

Heart attack symptoms can vary. Mild symptoms are present in some people. Others display serious symptoms. Some individuals show no symptoms.

Common heart attack symptoms include:

  • Chest pain that may feel like pressure, tightness, pain, squeezing or aching
  • Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, teeth or sometimes the upper belly
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Light-headedness or sudden dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

Heart attacks can happen suddenly. Many people, however, exhibit warning signs and symptoms hours, days, or even weeks in advance.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Women may have the symptoms stated above, but they also have a higher chance of experiencing symptoms other than those mentioned above, according to a new medical study. Less frequently mentioned by women are the following:

  • Chest pain, especially in the center of the chest.
  • Discomfort that feels like indigestion.

Women are more likely to describe the following:

Who is Most at Risk for a Heart Attack?

Your chance of having a heart attack is influenced by a number of important factors. Unfortunately, you have little control over some of these risk factors.

Age and sex

Your risk of having a heart attack rises with age, and the timing of that rise is also influenced by your sex:

  • Men - At age 45, there is a significant rise in heart attack risk.
  • Women - After menopause or at age 50, there is a significant rise in heart attack risk.

Family history

Your risk is increased if you or a parent or sibling had a history of heart disease or a heart attack, particularly when they were younger. The following factors raise that risk:

  • At age 55 or younger, your father or a brother received a heart disease diagnosis.
  • At age 65 or younger, your mother or sibling received a heart disease diagnosis.

Lifestyle

Your chance of having a heart attack can also be impacted by the lifestyle decisions you make. Your chance of having a heart attack is increased by the following lifestyle choices:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • A diet high in sodium, sugar and fat
  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Drug abuse (especially in younger individuals)

Other diseases and health conditions

The following health conditions can increase your risk of heart attack:

What are the complications of a heart attack?

The common complication of a heart attack include:-

  • Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms): Medication, pacemaker installation, implanted cardioverter defibrillator installation, and other treatments are all available as management strategies.
  • Heart failure: Your heart may become weak and unable to pump blood efficiently, which may result in heart failure, if enough cardiac tissue has perished.
  • Heart valve problems: Your heart valves may be impacted based on the location of the damaged heart tissue. For the treatment of heart valve issues, catheter-based treatments or surgery are available.
  • Sudden cardiac arrest: Your heart's sudden stopping could be brought on by an arrhythmia.
  • Depression and anxiety: Speak with your healthcare professional. Counseling and medication are both used for management. One solution is to join a support group.

How are Heart Attacks Diagnosed?

Emergency rooms are typically the places when heart attacks are diagnosed. A medical professional will use the following to identify a heart attack:

The test will be done to diagnose Heart Attacks?

Anyone exhibiting heart attack symptoms should have a physical examination, which should include listening to the heart and lungs as well as measuring blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, and pulse.

Additional exams used to identify heart attacks include:

Electrocardiogram (abbreviated as EKG or ECG): When someone exhibits heart attack symptoms, one of the initial tests is this one. Electrodes, which are sensors used in this test, are attached to your chest's skin. The electrical activity in the heart is detected by the electrodes, which then display it as a wave on a screen or printout. The strength and timing of the electrical signal as it passes through your heart can be seen by the provider by observing the wave. The wave's shape changes when the signal doesn't travel as it should, which can signify a heart attack or other issues. An ongoing EKG is frequently used to detect changes in cardiac activity during a heart attack.

STEMI and non-STEMI heart attacks

The letters of the alphabet, from P to U, are used to segment the wave of electrical activity in your heart. The ST component of the wave, in particular, reveals activity in the lower two chambers of the heart. The left and right ventricles are those chambers.

The ST segment is typically fairly flat, but during a heart attack that damages the ventricles, it frequently becomes much taller than usual. This type of heart attack is referred to as a STEMI, or ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, by medical professionals. STEMI and non-STEMI heart attacks are the two main categories that heart attacks fall under, with STEMI heart attacks often being more severe.

  • Blood Test - The destruction of cardiac muscle cells during a heart attack almost invariably results in the appearance of a chemical marker in your bloodstream. One of the most accurate ways to identify a heart attack is through blood tests that search for that signal.

Images of the heart can be produced digitally or visually by certain examinations. These consist of:

  • Echocardiogram: Similar to how bats use ultrasound as a sonar to detect obstructions, this test employs ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves). Variable areas of your heart will experience different rates of ultrasonic wave passage through them and refraction. This data can be used to create an image of your heart's interior and exterior during an echocardiogram.
  • Angiogram:  This test includes injecting a dye-like substance easily visible on an X-ray into your blood before obtaining an X-ray. Doctors may now see regions where there is little to no blood flow.
  • Heart computed tomography (CT) scan:  This imaging procedure produces a highly detailed scan of your heart using X-rays and computer processing.
  • Heart MRI:  This examination produces an image of your heart using a strong magnetic field and computer processing.
  • Nuclear heart scans: These scans utilise a radioactive tracer that is put into your blood, just like an angiography. They use computer-enhanced techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET) scans, which distinguishes them from an angiography.

Treatment for Heart Attack

The injured cardiac muscle must receive blood flow as quickly as feasible in order to treat a heart attack. There are many different ways for this to happen, from drugs to surgery. It's highly likely that the treatment will make use of a number of the following techniques.

Supplementary oxygen

Along with other heart attack therapies, those who have problems breathing or have low blood oxygen levels frequently receive more oxygen. Either a mask that covers your nose and mouth or a tube that rests just below your nose are options for breathing the oxygen. This eases the strain on your heart and increases the amount of oxygen circulating in the circulation.

Medications

  • Anti-clotting medications: Aspirin and other blood-thinning medications fall within this category.
  • Nitroglycerin: Chest pain can be treated with this medication. It also acts as a potent vasodilator, widening blood vessels to facilitate easier blood flow.
  • Thrombolytic (clot-busting) medications: These intravenous (IV) drugs dissolve and disintegrate blood clots. Usually, these drugs are only taken for the first 12 hours following a heart attack.
  • Anti-arrhythmia medications: Arrhythmias, irregularities in your heart's regular beating rhythm, are frequently brought on by heart attacks. There are several arrhythmias that can be fatal. These malfunctions can be stopped or avoided using anti-arrhythmia drugs.
  • Pain medications: Morphine is the most frequently prescribed painkiller for heart attack treatment. Chest pain can be lessened by doing this.

Percutaneous coronary intervention

Percutaneous coronary intervention is typically used to reestablish blood flow to the injured heart muscle. This operation, known as PCI in short, involves inserting a catheter-based device into a significant blood arterial (usually one near your upper thigh).

The catheter is threaded up to the blocked artery on your heart after being introduced into the blood vessel through a tiny incision. A little balloon on the device's end will be inflated once it gets to the blockage site to open the blood vessel and remove the obstruction.

The sooner blood flow is restored with the help of PCI, the better the chances of a successful outcome. Hospitals gauge their capacity to treat a heart attack using a statistic known as "door-to-balloon time." This is the typical amount of time it takes for patients who initially enter the emergency room to receive PCI.

A stent is frequently inserted at the site of the obstruction during PCI. Stents resemble scaffolds in the form of tube-shaped structures formed of metallic mesh. They aid in maintaining the artery's openness to prevent a second blockage from forming there. Some stents have a pharmaceutical coating that stops tissue development or clotting on the stent itself (either of which could cause another blockage).

Coronary artery bypass grafting

Coronary artery bypass grafting may be performed on patients who have severe coronary artery blockages. Open-heart surgery, bypass surgery, or CABG (the abbreviation is pronounced "cabbage") are common names for this procedure.

In CABG, a blood vessel from another part of the body—typically your chest, arm, or leg—is used to create a blood vessel detour. Blood is redirected around the blocked artery portion as a result (or more than one artery; a double bypass goes around two arteries, three is a triple, and so on).

What are the Prevention of Heart Attacks

In general, there are lots of things you may take to lower your risk of having a heart attack. Nevertheless, despite your best efforts, some uncontrollable circumstances, particularly your family history, can still cause a heart attack. However, lowering your risk might delay when you have a heart attack and lessen its intensity if you do.

How to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

There are numerous ways you can take care of yourself and lower your risk of having a heart attack, even if there are some risk factors that you can't change. These consist of:

  • Schedule a checkup: Find a primary care physician and schedule a full body health checkup or wellness visit with them at least once each year. Many of the early warning symptoms of heart disease, including those you can't feel, can be found during an annual checkup. These comprise your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and more.
  • Quit tobacco products: This applies to all e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
  • Exercise regularly: Set a weekly goal of 20 to 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Diets like the Mediterranean or Dash are two examples. A plant-based diet is a fantastic substitute.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Your primary care physician can suggest a healthy goal weight for you and offer you tools and suggestions to help you get there.
  • Manage your existing health conditions: Diabetes, high blood pressure, and excessive cholesterol are examples of this.
  • Reduce your stress: Think about exercises like yoga, deep breathing, and meditation.
  • Take your medications: Do not merely take drugs when you are reminded to or when a doctor's visit is approaching.
  • Keep all your medical appointments: Regular visits to your doctor can help you find heart problems or other health conditions you weren't aware you had. This can also assist in addressing issues as soon as possible.

You don't have to completely overhaul your lifestyle in order to actively contribute to your health. Request assistance from your primary care physician and other healthcare professionals. They can direct you to services you might find useful and give you the resources and information you need.

Your doctor will advise a cardiac rehabilitation programme if you've already experienced a heart attack. The purpose of this programme is to lessen your risk of having another heart attack. The same healthy living objectives outlined above are the emphasis of these medically supervised programmes, which also offer counselling.

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