If you think you may be experiencing a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately so that treatment can start as soon as possible. Do not drive yourself or wait for a ride from a friend or family member. Have an ambulance take you to a hospital that is a cardiac receiving center right away.
The symptoms of a heart attack aren’t the same for everyone. Sometimes heart attacks are sudden and excruciating, but most of the time, they start out slow with mild discomfort. The most common heart attack symptoms are chest pain or discomfort, upper body pain, and shortness of breath. The most common symptom for both men and women is chest pain, but women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, and pain in other parts of the body, particularly the back or jaw.
A heart attack is caused from lack of blood flow to the heart muscle There are three main coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Coronary artery disease occurs when the inner lining of the coronary arteries develop plaques that cause a narrowing of the vessel. When this narrowing becomes significant, the blood flow is cut off to the heart muscle and causes pain. If it’s not reversed, it can cause muscle damage known as a myocardial infarction or MI.
Age and family history are uncontrollable risk factors for a heart attack. Other risk factors that can be controlled are weight, exercise, blood pressure, glucose level, smoking and diet.
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack can be different for everyone and may even be different in women than in men. The most common chest pain is a sharp pain in the left chest with radiation to the left arm. More subtle signs of chest pain could be: pressure or tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, nausea or heart burn-like pain, pain in the jaw or throat, light headedness or weakness, and anxiety.
There are many risk factors associated with Heart Disease – those that we can control and those that we cannot. Risk factors we cannot control are: family history of heart disease, gender, diabetes or age. Risk factors we can control are: diets high in fat and salt, high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and the use of cocaine and amphetamines.
The main ways to determine if you have had a myocardial infarction are electrocardiograms (ECGs) that trace the electrical signals in the heart and testing the blood for substances associated with damage to the heart muscle. ECG testing is used to differentiate between two types of myocardial infarction based on the appearance of the tracing. An ST section of the tracing higher than the baseline is called an ST elevation MI (STEMI) which usually requires more aggressive treatment. If this is not the case, the diagnosis is confirmed with a blood test (usually troponin).
Take three simple steps to reduce the controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke including:
Source: American Heart Association
A Heart Attack is a medical emergency and the faster we can restore blood flow to the heart muscle, the better. “Time is Muscle.” If you experience any of the signs and symptoms listed above, go to the Emergency Room. Once a Heart Attack is diagnosed, our team will move quickly to restore blood flow to your heart muscle.
Initially medications to improve blood flow such as Nitroglycerine will be administered. The next important step is to administer blood thinning medications to avoid more blockages to your narrowed arteries. These drugs include Aspirin, unless you cannot take aspirin or are already on a blood thinning medication, and possibly an anticoagulant known as heparin.
If your heart attack was recent, your EKG will indicate that the heart muscle is not getting enough blood. They will take you to the cardiac cath lab to locate the blocked artery and open it with a balloon catheter and possibly place a coronary stent to keep the artery from closing off again. If the disease in your coronary arteries is wide spread you may require a Coronary Artery Bypass to restore sufficient blood flow back to the heart (See Coronary Artery Bypass/CABG).
MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute specializes in minimally invasive heart procedures. With these innovative techniques, patients benefit from fewer complications, less scarring, greater comfort and faster recoveries. Distinguished as a leading heart and vascular institute.
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