Heart is a highly specialized muscular organ that maintains the blood circulation throughout the body. Heart attack or acute myocardial infarction results from death of heart tissues due to complete blockage in one of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart. When blood-borne oxygen is not supplied to heart tissue for longer than 30 minutes, known as ischemia, there may be irreversible death of heart muscles, which can lead to chest pain and pressure.
In most cases, this blockage is due to coronary heart disease, also known as atherosclerosis. Sudden cardiac arrest results from the abnormal rhythm of heart, which can lead to a sudden stop in the heartbeat. Some risk factors for cardiac arrest include severe physical stress, heart diseases, and inherited heart conditions. According to the statistics by World Health Organization (WHO), coronary heart disease is responsible for about 17 million deaths every year throughout the world.
Signs and Symptoms
It is very important to understand the symptoms of this medical condition for proper diagnosis and treatment purposes. According to medical experts, the body would probably show some warning signs if such be the case. The symptoms may vary from person to person, and even an individual who experienced this condition previously may have some different symptoms in the subsequent attack. Some of the most significant indications are:
- A discomfort in the center of the chest, which may last for more than few minutes. A feeling of squeezing, uncomfortable pressure, pain, or fullness. The affected person may experience a shortness of breath.
- The affected person may feel a discomfort or pain in other areas of upper body including both arms, neck, back, stomach, or jaw. This pain can be mild or intense spreading to shoulders, arms, or neck. The affected person may experience tightness, pressure, heavy weight, or burning in the chest.
- The signs may also include lightheadedness, sweating, fainting, paleness, and nausea.
- Other signs are anxiety, sweaty skin, nervousness, irregular or increased heart rate, and feeling of impending doom (anxiety symptom).
However, not all these signs are observed in every attack. Just like in men, the most common symptom in women is chest discomfort or pain. However, women are more likely to experience some other common symptoms such as shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, and nausea or vomiting.
Causes and Risk Factors
Coronary heart disease (CHD) or atherosclerosis, is the primary risk factor for the condition. Being overweight can also be a risk factor for CHD and heart attack. Some significant risk factors are age, diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), gender (male), heredity, elevated levels of certain proteins and amino acids (C-reactive protein, homocysteine, fibrinogen), high fat diet, lack of exercise, low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of LDL cholesterol, stress, and smoking.
Some other causes are as follows:
- Congenital heart conditions
- Complications from bypass surgery or cardiac catheterization
- Coronary embolization
- Inflammatory heart disease
If the affected person experiences severe chest pain and suspects this condition, then he/she should opt for immediate medical treatment. Some diagnostic tests prescribed by the concerned doctor are electrocardiogram (ECG), laboratory investigations such as determination of cardiac enzymes (creatine phosphokinase, creatine phosphokinase-MB), serum troponin levels etc.
Prompt medical attention is the most important factor in treating this condition. Rapid evaluation enables early treatment for abnormal rhythms like ventricular fibrillation, as well as early reperfusion by the procedures that involve unclogging of blocked coronary arteries. The treatment focuses on quickly opening the blocked artery and restoring blood flow to heart muscle.
The various treatment options include antiplatelet medications, anticoagulant medications, coronary angiography with percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, clot dissolving medications, supplemental oxygen, medications to reduce the need for oxygen by the heart muscles, and medications to prevent abnormal heart rhythms.
Heart attack is considered as a medical emergency, its prompt and accurate treatment could increase the possibilities of survival. On observation of the aforementioned signs or symptoms, one should immediately seek medical attention in order to reduce the severity of this life-threatening condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.