Cardiovascular disease causes heart attacks, this is why prevention is so important. As I had mentioned in the previous blog, ‘Nice Pipes”, there are certain preventable risk factors to coronary artery disease. To refresh your memory, you can find that blog here!
So, to start, what is a heart attack? Well it happens when oxygen delivery to the hearts muscle tissue through one or many of the major heart arteries is blocked. This means the heart muscle on the other end of the blockage is not getting the oxygen it needs and starts to die. Then, the heart does not beat effectively. Depending on where the blockage happens, and to what extent, pain will be mild to significant and could also be in different areas of the chest.
How does this happen?
Remember when I blogged about coronary artery disease in 'Nice Pipes'? The cholesterol/plaque that I was referring to builds up and blocks the arteries supplying the heart muscle.
How do you know if you are having a heart attack?
- chest tightness or discomfort, can be described as burning, heaviness, pressure or crushing pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Pain that radiates in your chest area down one or both arms and or up your neck jaw or shoulders.
- Sweating and overall weakness.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Anxiety or fear.
Women are more likely to have vague chest discomfort as opposed to the crushing chest pain that men might experience. Despite the perceived mildness, the heart attack is just as severe. Women are at higher risk of heart disease if they smoke, take birth control pills or have gone through menopause.
If you experience new onset chest pain during exercise that improves with rest, it is important that you see your family doctor to further investigate your symptoms.
What do you do if you experience these symptoms?
It is important to go to the hospital right away. There you will be treated with oxygen to help increase oxygen levels in your blood to assist your heart in getting the oxygen it requires. As well as tests that include, a blood test, a chest x-ray and, an ECG. An ECG traces your heart beat and helps to determine whether your heart is beating in a normal rhythm.
Treatment for a heart attack varies, for one type, clot busters, including aspirin will be given within 5 hours of onset of symptoms. These are given in hopes to break up the clot and restore the blood flow to that area of the heart.
For the other type, the clot busting drugs will be given but also, a procedure to widen the blocked or narrowed artery more quickly via a stent is required.
What happens after that?
Well, if there were no complications with regards to the heart attack and treatment, you will be discharged home after 1 or 2 days in the hospital. You will be given new medications to take, referred to a cardiac rehab program, and counselled on lifestyle modifications.
Today’s pearls of wisdom on heart attacks:
- Prevention is important. It is easier to modify your lifestyle prior to a cardiac event than deal with the complications afterwards
- Heart attacks happen because of blocked arteries from coronary artery disease
- Heart attacks can be treated if treatment is sought early
- Heart attacks are serious