How does a Heart Attack Affect the Body

The effects of a heart attack on the body depend on a number of factors like severity of the attack and the time gap between the attack and the treatment received.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2018
Each and every part of our body requires adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients to stay alive. Blood transports the vital nutrients and oxygen to various parts of the body. The task of blood circulation is carried out by the heart. On the other hand, the heart gets its required supplies from the two coronary arteries. If any one of these arteries get blocked, a portion of the heart would be damaged because of insufficiency of oxygen. This causes chest pain, dizziness and breathing trouble. Such a condition is termed as heart attack.
The main cause of heart attack is deposition of thick layers of plaque on the inner linings of the arteries. The key constituents of plaque are cholesterol, fatty substances and calcium. The process of deposition of plaque on the inside walls of large arteries usually starts in our childhood days, but it takes thirty years or more to get raised to an alarming level, when it can be a threat to the life of a person. The condition of plaque build up inside the arteries is referred to as atherosclerosis this process gets accelerated due to certain conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and also smoking.
With the increase in the levels of plaque, the blood flow to the heart becomes restricted. As a result of the decrease in blood into the heart, there is a substantial decrease in the amount of oxygen that reaches it. The myocardium or the middle layer of the heart wall that controls the flow of blood in and out of the heart, is most badly affected by this condition. A complete blockage in any of the arteries leads to heart attack. Another possible cause is spasm of the coronary artery. This happens mainly because of smoking, stress or side effects of narcotic drugs.
Effects on the Body
If one gets medical help within the first two hours of a heart attack, the possibility of irreversible damage can be lessened. However, in case of a massive heart attack, permanent damage to the myocardium or death is not ruled out. The damage caused to the heart muscle disables the heart and it becomes incapable of regular expansion and contraction, which in turn further leads to a number of complications.
Heart attack can lead to a condition of irregular rhythm of the heartbeat. This condition is known as arrhythmia, which can weaken the heart further and may even prove to be fatal. It is quite common soon after the attack and often continues even after the acute phase of the attack is over. Heart attack can also give rise to problems in the heart valves which control the direction of flow of the blood. Problems like leakages are very serious and may cause death.
Another effect is congestive heart failure. This occurs when the heart loses its capacity to act as a pump for circulating blood inside the body due to the damage caused by the attack on the muscle of left ventricles. As a result, oxygenated blood cannot reach the organs of the body and gets accumulated inside the heart. Lack of oxygen in the organs causes fatigue, increase in body weight because of fluid accumulation and other such problems.
A heart attack can lead to myocardial rupture. However, it is not a very common occurrence and usually shows up within the first ten days after the heart attack. Here, a section of the heart muscle may rupture due to a rise in the pressure against the weak inner walls of the heart. This pressure increases because the heart fails to pump out the blood properly. This kind of tear in heart muscle causes heavy bleeding that can be fatal.
A heart attack does not mean that the person has to suffer for life. If the damage is not severe, a patient can recover and resume work and all other routine activities after some months. However, regular visits to the doctor for physical examination and proper care is a must to prevent any future occurrence of a heart attack.