Heart Attacks

           A heart attack is when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. This usually happens because of a build up of cholesterol, fat, or other substances in the arteries. This stop in blood flow can damage and destroy some of the heart muscle. Some symptoms of a heart attack include a tightness, pressure, pain, or squeezing aching sensation in the arms and chest that can spread to the neck, back, or jaw.

Other symptoms can also include nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, indigestion, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, or shortness of breath. Not everybody has the same symptoms when experiencing a heart attack. Some people have very mild or even no symptoms while others experience very severe symptoms and pain. While some heart attacks come suddenly without warning, many do have warning signs weeks, days, or hours in advance. The first warning sign would be angina (repeated chest pains) that occurs after physical exertion. An angina is caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart.

           A heart attack can occur when multiple coronary arteries are blocked with plaque. Over time, the coronary artery narrows from the buildup of cholesterol, fat, and other substances- this is also known as coronary artery disease and can cause a heart attack. During a heart attack, the plaque can rupture and spill all of these substances into the bloodstream and a blood clot can form at the site of the rupture.

This clot, if large enough, can block the flow of blood. Another cause of a heart attack can be a sudden spasm of the coronary artery that can shut down the blood flow to the heart. This spasm usually happens as a result of the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and tobacco.

           Risk factors that increase the chances of getting a heart attack includes being over the age of 50, smoking, experiencing second hand smoke, having high blood pressure, having high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, having diabetes, having a family history of a heart attack, stress, a family history of heart attacks, the use of illegal drug use, having a history with preeclampsia, a history of an autoimmune condition, and obesity.

One might also experience complications to a heart attack such as an abnormal heart rhythm, heart rupture, heart failure, and valve problems. These complications are due to the damage to the heart muscles from a heart attack.

           Tests to diagnose a heart attack include an electrocardiogram (ECG), blood tests, chest x-ray, echocardiogram, coronary catheterization, exercise stress test, a CT, or MRI. After one experiences a heart attack, with each passing minute, more heart tissue will lose oxygen, deteriorates, and die. The main goal of a heart attack treatment is to restore blood flow as quickly to the heart as possible. Some medications that are used to treat a heart attack include aspirin, thrombolytic, antiplatelet agents, blood-thinning medications, pain relievers, nitroglycerines, beta blocker, and ACE inhibitors. There are surgical procedures that are done on patients with a heart attack such as coronary angioplasty and stenting, and coronary artery bypass surgery.

           There are many ways to prevent a heart attack such as not smoking, getting a general exam regularly, exercising regularly, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level, manage blood sugars, control stress, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid drinking alcohol excessively.

As long as you maintain healthy lifestyle choices and take the medications prescribed to reduce a heart attack, you would have a slim chance of experiencing a heart attack.

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