heart attack

Heart Attack

Almost all heart attacks occur when a blood clot suddenly and completely blocks a coronary artery.

This condition is called a coronary thrombosis, or simply a coronary. The part of the heart muscle nourished by the blocked artery becomes damaged by lack of oxygen.

Unless blood flow returns within minutes, muscle damage increases. Heart cells begin to die after four to six hours without blood. The damage can affect the heart's ability to pump and may cause the patient's death. If the clot can be dissolved within four to six hours, damage to the heart can be reduced. Symptoms. Some people have no warning signs at the beginning of a heart attack. But many people experience angina, dizziness, indigestion, or other symptoms. Most heart attacks cause severe pain. Patients describe the pain as a dull, crushing ache in the chest, but discomfort may extend into the neck, jaw, arms, or back.

The pain may last from a few minutes to several hours. Anyone with chest pain who suspects the pain may be due to a heart attack should seek medical help immediately.

Some patients may stop breathing, and their hearts may stop beating. A first-aid technique called cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can maintain breathing and circulation until a patient can be taken to a hospital. But CPR should be performed only by someone trained in the technique.

Diagnosis and treatment.

Injured heart muscle causes abnormal ECG waves. Soon after a patient reaches the hospital, doctors administer an ECG to determine that symptoms result from a heart attack and not some other disorder. Doctors also use certain blood tests to detect a heart attack. But these tests are not useful until a few hours after an attack. Doctors may administer a strong painkilling drug, such as morphine, to relieve the pain of a heart attack. They also use drugs to dissolve clots in the blocked artery or may perform emergency angioplasty or bypass surgery.

After doctors stabilize the condition of a heart attack patient, they admit the person to the hospital and monitor him or her for complications in the intensive care unit. Some hospitals have a specialized intensive care unit called a coronary care unit for heart patients. Two major complications are heart failure and arrhythmia. Heart failure occurs if the heart cannot pump enough blood because of extensive damage to the heart muscle. In most cases, heart failure can be successfully treated. In arrhythmia, the heart's electrical system produces an abnormal pattern of beats. Most arrhythmias can be readily treated, but a type called ventricular fibrillation can cause sudden death. Ventricular fibrillation occurs when electrical signals in the ventricles fire randomly.

More than 20 percent of heart attack patients who do not get medical care die. Some people die before they can reach a doctor, but other patients ignore their symptoms and delay treatment. The death rate among hospitalized patients ranges from 5 to 10 percent. Heart attack patients with ongoing chest pain, arrhythmias, or heart failure have a greater risk of another attack than do patients without these problems.

Source : World Book 2005




There’s good news for people who have had a heart attack. The worst is over, and soon you can do most of the things you used to do! Now is a good time to make healthy changes in your lifestyle. Heart disease can get worse unless you take steps to get your heart in good shape. After a heart attack, it’s common to worry a lot. Getting better and feeling good about yourself will take time. It helps to do as your doctor says and to learn about keeping your heart healthy. You may have many active years left to enjoy!

Are my feelings normal?

Most patients say they have bad feelings after a heart attack. These are normal and easy to understand. It’s a good idea to talk to someone about your feelings — don’t keep them inside. In time, these bad feelings should go away.

• of dying
• of chest pains
• that you can’t have sex
• that you can’t work

• that it happened to you
• at family and friends

Depression, such as thinking…
• “Life is over.”
• You might not be the same again.
• Others might think you are weak.

How will my family feel?

People who are close to you will also “feel” your heart attack. Instead of keeping bad feelings in, you should all talk about them. Family members may feel…
• Frightened to see you in the hospital.
• Angry that the heart attack came at a bad time.
• Guilty because they think they “caused” it, even if they know it’s not possible.

What changes should I make?

• Get help to quit if you smoke.
• Control high blood pressure.
• Eat healthful meals low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.
• Get involved in regular physical activities.
• Lose weight if you need to.
• Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.

What about sex?

• Check with your doctor first, but you should be able to have sex the way you did before. You should be ready when you’re able to walk around easily.
• If you have chest pain during sex, have lost interest, or are worried about having sex, talk with your doctor.

When can I go back to work?

• Most people go back to work in 2 weeks to 3 months.
• Your doctor may have you take tests to find out if you can do the kind of work you did before.
• Some people change jobs to make it easier on their heart.
• Ask your doctor about cardiac rehabilitation programs in your area.

What are the Warning Signs of Heart Attack and Stroke?

Warning Signs of Heart Attack:
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most of them start slowly with mild pain or discomfort with one or more of these symptoms:
• Chest discomfort
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
• Other signs including breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

Warning Signs of Stroke:
• Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause Learn to recognize a stroke. Time lost is brain lost.

Source : American Heart Association

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