Heart attacks (myocardial infarction; MI) can be caused by a blockage of the arteries that take oxygenated blood to the heart. The muscle of the heart does not receive this oxygen and the muscle can die off. It is crucial to make sure your heart gets a continuous supply of oxygenated blood for it to continue to function. The CDC reports someone in the United States has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Heart attack symptoms can occur over time, or be sudden.
Heart attacks can be caused by:
1. Atherosclerosis, a fatty plaque that builds up in the arteries and prevents blood and oxygen from going to your heart.
2. Blood clots which can occur when a plaque breaks off in the artery and blocks the artery going to the heart.
3. Arterial spasms are when the artery contracts and cuts off blood flow to your heart.
Risk factors for a heart attack include those with high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol or triglyceride, diabetes, smoke, are overweight, have a stressful life, do not exercise, drink alcohol, use street drugs, have a family history, history of autoimmune disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, are over 45 years old, and are male.
Symptoms include shortness of breath heartburn, sweating, dizziness, upper back pain, jaw or shoulder pain. Chest pain tends to feel more like a heaviness, or tightness sensation. Women tend to have feelings of nervousness, nausea, indigestion, heartburn, excessive yawning, tooth ache, tingling in the arms and hands, and pain between the shoulder blades and back. Those over 65 years old may experience more sweating, shortness of breath, fatigue, or flu like symptoms. If you have these symptoms, get medical attention immediately. Do not wait to see if they will go away. The longer you wait the greater the damage to your heart. Time is muscle. Call 911, and take nitroglycerin if already prescribed by your doctor for chest pain. If instructed to do so by the operator, take 81 mg Aspirin 4 baby chewable tablets for a total of 325 mg. Do not dissolve.
Diagnosis is done by EKG and blood tests called cardiac enzymes. Sometimes a stress test may be ordered to see how your heart and blood vessels handle exertion. An angiogram may check to see which blood vessels are blocked.
Complications include arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure where your heart cannot pump oxygenated blood sufficiently, heart rupture, or heart valve damage.
1. Break up or dissolve the clot in the artery of the heart
2. Angioplasty and balloon pump therapy is when a catheter is inserted into the artery and a balloon inflated to widen the arteries and allow blood flow.
3. Cardiac stent is when a metal mesh is inserted in to the artery to keep it from closing
4. Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is when arteries or veins are inserted around the blocked arteries of the heart to restore blood flow to that area of the heart.
Medications typically given to treat heart attacks include:
Aspirin helps prevent blood from clotting, allowing oxygenated blood flow.
Clot busters or Thrombolytics, such as Alteplase or Reteplase. The sooner you have it the better.
Antiplatelet drugs prevent the clot that is present from getting larger. An example is Clopidogrel or Plavix.
Pain medication, such as morphine may help improve circulation and reduce pain.
Nitroglycerin is used to treat chest pain and widen the blood vessels to allow for blood flow.
Beta blockers, such as Atenolol and Carvedilol, relaxes, slows the muscle of your heart, and reduces blood pressure making it easier for your heart to work.
Ace Inhibitors, such as Lisinopril and Enalapril, also reduce blood pressure, and stress on the heart.
Lifestyle changes include exercise, eating a healthy diet, stop smoking, reduce alcohol intake, stop using street drugs, better management of diabetes, and stress reduction. This is usually done by a cardiac rehabilitation program. Some patients become depressed or have issues with sexual dysfunction after a heart attack. It is important to discuss this with your doctor.