A heart attack can be a frightening experience. The symptoms can come on suddenly and include chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating. If you experience these symptoms, it's vital to get help right away. But what actually happens during this form of acute coronary syndrome? Today, we'll explore what really happens, what to do if you think someone is having one, and more. Keep reading to learn more about this type of cardiac event.
What happens during a heart attack?
A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is a medical emergency in which the blood flow to the heart is suddenly blocked. This blockage can happen because of a blood clot in a coronary artery or because of a spasm in a coronary artery. The blockage is usually a result of atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits accumulate on the inner walls of the arteries.
Over time, this accumulation can narrow the arteries and reduce the blood flow to the heart. When the blood flow is reduced or blocked, the heart muscle can become damaged, leading to cardiac arrest.
An attack can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle and can lead to heart failure. A myocardial infarction can also increase the risk of arrhythmia, a condition in which the heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly. Arrhythmias can disrupt the heart's normal pumping action and can lead to cardiac arrest. In addition, it can increase the risk of blood clots forming in the arteries, which can cause a stroke.
What heart attack symptoms should I look out for?
The signs of a heart attack can be difficult to identify, as they can vary from person to person. However, some general signs may indicate that an attack is taking place, including:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain in the arm, shoulder, neck, or jaw
- Shortness of breath
It's crucial to remember that not all chest pain is a symptom of a heart attack. Other conditions can cause chest pain and similar symptoms. These include:
- Aortic aneurysm
- Aortic stenosis
- Pulmonary embolism
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Esophageal spasm
- Chest infection
A myocardial infarction can be deadly, so it's essential to know the warning signs and seek medical attention if you experience any of them. If you're not sure if you're having an attack, it's best to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention. The doctors will be able to determine if you're actually experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack and will provide you with the necessary treatment. Do not try to self-diagnose or treat it on your own.
What if I suspect someone is having a heart attack?
If someone is suspected of having a heart attack, it's critical to keep them calm and comfortable. If the person is conscious, you can ask them if they have any allergies and what medications they're taking. You can also ask them if they're experiencing any pain or pressure in their chest, upper body, or arms. If they are having a heart attack, this emergency health information can help emergency responders provide them with the necessary treatment.
What are the most common heart attack risk factors?
There are many different factors that can increase your risk of a heart attack. Some of these are controllable, while others are not. Here is a list of some of the most common risk factors:
- Tobacco use: Smoking is the single biggest risk factor for heart disease. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of a heart attack by two to four times, and even exposure to second-hand smoke can increase your risk.
- High blood pressure: Hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart disease. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage the heart, leading to a heart attack.
- High cholesterol: Elevated levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and low levels of good cholesterol (HDL) can increase your risk of a heart attack.
- Diabetes: Diabetes is a leading risk factor for heart disease. People with diabetes are two times more likely to have a heart attack than people without diabetes.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other chronic conditions.
- Physical inactivity: A lack of regular physical activity increases your risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions.
- Unhealthy diet: A diet high in unhealthy fats, salt, and processed foods can increase your risk for heart disease.
- Age: The older you are, the greater your risk for a heart attack.
- Gender: Men are more likely to have a heart attack than women.
- Ethnicity: African Americans are more likely to have a heart attack than whites.
- Family history: If you have a family history of heart disease, you are at greater risk for a heart attack.
- Previous heart attack: If you have had a myocardial infarction in the past, your risk for a subsequent attack is increased.
If you have any of these risk factors, it is important to take steps to reduce your risk of a heart attack. This includes making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. It is also important to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.
What if I do have a heart attack?
If you're diagnosed with myocardial infarction, there are several treatment options that may be available to you. These include medications such as aspirin and clopidogrel to improve blood flow to the heart, procedures such as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to open blocked arteries and surgery to replace a damaged heart muscle.
Your doctor will work with you to determine the best treatment plan for you. If you have an attack, remember to follow your doctor's instructions and make lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk of future heart attacks. These changes may include quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Following your doctor's instructions is essential to recovering from a heart attack and reducing the risk of future problems. Most people who have a myocardial infarction will make a full recovery, but it's important to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of having another one. These changes may include eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking.
If you're looking to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of a heart attack, the Beverly Hills Institute for Cardiology and Preventive Medicine can help. Our experienced team, led by Dr. Arash Bereliani, offers tailored care plans to promote heart health and enhance your quality of life.