Heart attacks (medically termed myocardial infarctions) are common medical emergencies worldwide. Each year, in Australia around 57,000 individuals have heart attacks. Almost half of the population of Australia is at a risk for heart disease, and the numbers are rising. Fortunately, by familiarizing yourself with the causes, symptoms, and risk factors, you can lower the chances of experiencing a heart attack. The informative blog post will take a closer look at how heart attacks occur, and how to diagnose, treat and prevent them.
What Exactly Is A Heart Attack?
Commonly known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack is a common cause of death globally. To function properly, your heart needs a continuous blood supply. Heart attacks happen when there’s a build-up of plaque made of fat, cholesterol, and other substances that block or cut off the flow of blood to the heart muscles. The interruption of in the blood supply can destroy or damage part of the heart tissue, leading to heart failure and other serious complications. So, at the most basic level, heart attacks mean that the heart is not receiving enough blood flow.
As already covered above, more than 57,000 Australians experience a myocardial infarction each year. It is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical help. The earlier the sufferer receives medical attention, the lesser the damage. A heart attack can be fatal, but treatment options for heart diseases and heart attack have dramatically improved over the past few years.
What is the Causes Of Heart Attacks And Stroke
Most heart attacks happen because of a blockage in one of the coronary arteries. Also known as atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease (CAD) is one of the common causes of heart attacks. The build-up (also known as plaque or atheroma) of unwanted fatty substances like cholesterol in the arteries is termed atherosclerosis. If a portion of build-up cracks or breaks off, it will form a blood clot which can block the artery, causing a heart attack.
The risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD) is increased by:
- Being overweight or obese
- High cholesterol
- A high-fat diet
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
Other less common causes of heart attacks include the following:
- Drug misuse
- Hypoxia (sudden drop in oxygen levels)
- Spontaneous coronary artery dissection or SCAD (a condition where multiple coronary arteries break off)
Who Has A Higher Risk Of Heart Attacks?
A heart attack does not discriminate and heart-related issues affect both men and women. However, heart attacks or myocardial infarctions in females tend to be fatal as they get older. People with obesity and Type 2 diabetes are more prone to develop heart-related problems.
Several other health conditions, your age, your lifestyle and your family history can also put you at a higher risk for heart-related issues and heart attack. Most people have one of these key risk factors for a heart-related issue: smoking, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol. Although some risk factors for heart disease and heart attack cannot be controlled such as family history or age, precautionary steps can be taken to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Frequently Asked Questions About Heart Attack
Here are answers to some FAQs about heart attacks.
1. How Common Are Heart Attacks?
Heart attacks are very common medical emergencies worldwide! Each year, more than 57,000 people in Australia experience a heart attack.
2. What Are the Tests Available To Confirm Heart Attacks?
Blood tests, stress tests, electrocardiograms, and coronary angiography can help in the detection of a heart attack.
3. How to Prevent A Heart Attack?
While heart attacks can be deadly, they can also be preventable in many individuals. Lifestyle changes like limiting the intake of alcohol, quitting smoking, drinking plenty of water, having a balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce the risk of heart attacks.
4. How Long Does A Heart Attack Last?
The symptoms of a heart attack can last 30 minutes or longer.
5. What Is A Myocardial Infarction or MI?
Myocardial infarction or MI is the medical term for heart attack.
Symptoms Of Heart Attack Pain
Whether or not you are at high risk for heart disease or heart attack, being aware of the common symptoms is a good idea. The symptoms of a heart attack pain differ from person to person. While some individuals experience no warning signs before a heart attack strive others feel symptoms a few days or weeks in advance. The major symptoms of a heart attack or myocardial infarction are:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or/and discomfort in the shoulder, neck or arm
- Sweating and trouble breathing
- Upper body pain
- Dizziness or light-headedness
Anyone experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms of a heart attack should seek medical help immediately. The sooner you get medical help, the sooner you can get the appropriate treatment to reduce the amount of damage to the heart muscle. Other heart attack symptoms could include unexplained or unusual tiredness. Females are more likely to experience these other symptoms. Therefore, females should pay careful attention to these other symptoms of a heart attack.
Additionally, it is also possible to suffer from a silent heart attack, in which a sufferer does not feel any pain or where the only red flag may be a digestion problem. This is common in females or diabetes patients.
Diagnosis Of Heart Attack
If an individual suspect he or she might have a heart attack should seek medical help immediately. Many tests help confirm you have had a heart attack, such as:
- Blood tests
- CT scan or MRI scan
- Chest x-ray
- Electrocardiography (ECG)
- Stress test
- Nuclear test
Other tests may be performed in some cases. This may be done to clarify the diagnosis of a heart attack or to diagnose further complications. The good news is that advanced medical facilities allow healthcare professionals to offer heart attack patients many options for treating heart attacks.
Conditions like heart attack need immediate medical assistance by a healthcare professional. Once a heart attack is confirmed, your doctor takes appropriate steps to treat the heart attack through the following procedures:
- Heart bypass surgery
- Heart valve surgery
- Heart transplant
Certain medicines also help cure the problem such as:
- Blood Thinners (Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet)
- Nitro-glycerin (To Relieve Chest Pain or Discomfort)
- Pain Killers
- Blood Pressure Medications
The Bottom Line
A heart attack can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. It’s never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes to prevent heart attacks such as maintaining healthy body weight, managing stress, eating healthy, becoming more physically active and quitting smoking.