A heart attack is a cardiac event in which blood is cut off from the heart muscle. Also called a myocardial infarction, a heart attack is typically accompanied by well-known warning signs, yet some do not experience symptoms. Heart attacks are very common in the United States. One source estimates that a heart attack occurs every 40 seconds.
A heart attack is a serious medical emergency. If you think you may be experiencing a heart attack, call 911 and arrange transportation to the nearest emergency center. Those who survive heart attacks typically have lasting heart damage that should be managed with the help of a cardiologist. Similarly, folks who are at risk of having a heart attack can work with a cardiologist or other physician to reduce their likelihood.
Heart attacks can have several causes. The most direct cause is the stoppage of oxygen-rich blood to a section of the heart. Many things can cause this stoppage, but the most common is coronary artery disease. Those with this condition experience a gradual building up of plaque, a waxy substance inside the coronary arteries. When plaque builds up, the area can rupture, causing a blood clot to form. When the clot becomes large enough, it can partially or completely block the flow of blood. This causes the heart attack.
However, some people can experience blood clots that are not caused by coronary artery disease. Torn blood vessels can contribute to heart attacks, as can blood vessel spasms. While less common, these risks should be taken seriously.
Heart attack symptoms vary by person. Some symptoms are very recognizable. They include:
However, these symptoms coincide with those of a panic attack, an extremely common neurological experience. Still, if you are experiencing any of these heart attack symptoms, call your doctor or an emergency operator immediately. Even if you are not having a heart attack, it is better to be safe.
Additionally, heart attack symptoms present differently in male and female bodies. Males are more likely to experience chest pain and shortness of breath. Females are more likely to experience jaw pain and extreme fatigue.
There are also several risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of experiencing a heart attack. Those who are over 65 years old and have a family history of heart disease are more likely to have a heart attack. Additionally, those who smoke, have high cholesterol, are obese, experience extreme stress, and drink alcohol excessively are more likely to have a heart attack.
There are three primary types of heart attacks. The names are derived from the various myocardial infarction causes.
While each type of heart attack comes with a different risk of death and significant injury, they should all be taken seriously. Any cardiac event risks death and complications. If you are at risk of having a heart attack, start seeing a cardiologist as soon as possible.
Heart attacks are diagnosed using a range of tests and imaging procedures. In most cases, the diagnosis will happen after the heart attack has occurred. If you go to an emergency room because of a heart attack, the staff will triage you as a patient and work to address symptoms. Once you and your heart have been stabilized, they will begin the process of diagnosing the myocardial infarction.
The first test used will be an electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG. This is used to monitor the heart’s electrical activity. This test will confirm the heart attack diagnosis and help determine which type of heart attack you experienced.
Afterwards, your physician may order several tests to assess the state of your heart and check for any related complications. This can include any or all of the following.
Even if you have not had a heart attack, a doctor may use any of these tests to determine your cardiac health. The best way to treat a heart attack is to prevent it from happening. If you are at risk of having a cardiac event, start seeing a cardiologist. They will be able to provide guidance and treatment to keep your heart as healthy as possible.
Tissue begins to deteriorate as soon as a heart attack happens. In an emergency setting, medical professionals will work hard to restore blood flow as quickly as possible.
Many patients will also receive medications to treat heart attacks. This might include any of the following.
If a heart attack is severe, or if the patient does not respond to treatment, a doctor may perform an emergency surgical procedure. This can include a coronary artery bypass surgery, which allows blood to bypass the narrowed blood vessel. A coronary stenting may also be performed. This includes using a special balloon, which is briefly inflated, to open a blocked artery.
In most cases, heart attack patients will need to go some type of cardiac rehabilitation. You will need to see a cardiologist regularly for several months after returning from the hospital. Remember that those who engage in cardiac rehabilitation are less likely to have additional heart attacks or complications. If you have had a heart attack, or if you are at risk of having one, building a relationship with a cardiologist is crucial.
When it comes to heart attack prevention, many factors are out of an individual’s control. This includes age, sex, race, and genetic predisposition. However, most people can make lifestyle changes to reduce their likelihood of having a heart attack. Smokers, for example, can join smoking cessation programs, which can reduce their risk. Additionally, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight can all contribute to a heart-healthy lifestyle.
If you are worried about having a heart attack, talk to your doctor now. Heart attacks can be both dangerous and scary. However, working to increase your heart health can improve your outlook. Building a relationship with a cardiologist can also provide that physician with a better understanding of your health, how you might respond to treatment, and how to best prevent a cardiac event from occurring. It is important to take your heart health seriously, and finding a doctor is a great first step.