Heart attack is the damage or death of a section of heart muscle due to lack of blood flow and oxygen.
- Blockage of coronary artery by a blood clot
- Narrowing of coronary artery due to cholesterol accumulation(atherosclerosis)
- Severe spasm of a coronary artery
- Advancing age
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High blood pressure
- Diet high in saturated fats (animal fats)
- Sedentary lifestyle
Symptoms in a heart attack last for more than half an hour and do not subside with rest or oral medication. They may include:
- Discomfort, heaviness or pain in the chest radiating to the jaw, back and arm
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme weakness
Heart attack can cut off the oxygen supply to the heart leading to irrepairable damage and even death. Medical help should be called immediately and treatment should begin without wasting any time. Both medications and certain procedures are used to treat a heart attack.
Medications may include:
- Thrombolytic agents which help to dissolve blood clots and prevent further damage.
- Heparin which thins the blood.
- Aspirin which make platelets less sticky thereby decreasing the risk of clot formation.
- Beta blockers which reduce the heart rate and therefore lessen the strain on the heart.
- Nitroglycerine which opens up the arteries and the veins.
- IIb/IIIa inhibitors which help to dissolve the existing clots and prevent the platelets from sticking together.
If the patient is experiencing abnormal heart rhythm, shock through a defibrillator can be given to restore the normal rhythm.
Certain procedures such as angioplasty and stenting may be done to open narrow or blocked arteries and bypass surgery may be performed if necessary.
Lifestyle changes can help in preventing heart attacks:
- Regular exercise
- Controlled cholesterol
- Controlled blood sugar levels
- Controlled blood pressure
- Healthy weight
- Low stress levels
- Balanced diet
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding smoking