Heart Attack Signs & Symptoms, Risk and Recovery

Heart Attack Signs & Symptoms, Risk and Recovery: Heart Attack is a common condition affecting people over the age of 50 years of age. In this condition, the heart of the person does not receive enough blood supply and thus the tissue of the heart can get damaged. If this is not treated immediately then it can even result in the death of the person.

Nowadays, heart attack is common even in younger individuals and people as young as 25 years of age are also getting heart attacks. Heart attacks are also known as Myocardial Infarction and can result from a variety of causes. The most common cause of heart attack is build up of fatty plaques in the coronary arteries known as coronary artery disease.

Prompt treatment of heart attack can prevent fatality and even complications of heart attack. People should get regular health checkups in order to diagnose underlying conditions and to prevent the occurrence of heart attacks. Heart attacks are treated depending on the cause which has caused the attack.

Heart Attack

Heart Attack, Myocardial Infarction, is a serious condition which can be life threatening if not treated on time. The main cause of heart attack is buildup of fatty plaques in the coronary artery. This buildup can become too big with time and can even block the supply of the heart. This buildup is known as Atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease. This causes the onset of the symptoms of Heart attack in the individual.

Heart attacks are common in people having high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes and a family history of heart attacks. Heart attacks are treated with various treatment options in accordance with their causative agent. People can notice heart attacks with the symptoms that occur just before the onset of heart attack.

These symptoms include lightheadedness, shortness of breath and nausea. The article given below will give you an idea of the signs and symptoms of heart attack, causes of heart attack, risk factors, treatment options and preventive measures of heart attacks.

Types of Heart Attack

Heart attack is preceded by Angina pectoris which is chest pain caused due to blockage in the supply of the heart. Angina is of the following two main types-

  1. Stable Angina- Stable Angina is when the chest pain occurs due to exertion or undue stress. This is a more common form of Angina and the symptoms only occur with exertion.
  2. Unstable Angina- Unstable Angina is when chest pain can occur at any time. This is treated as a medical emergency and it is hard to distinguish it from the symptoms of Heart Attack.

Heart Attack can occur due to a number of causes and it is divided into two main types based on their causes.

  1. Type I- Type I Heart Attacks occur when the attack occurs due to a buildup of plaque in the arteries. This plaque ruptures the arteries and releases the cholesterol into the bloodstream. This can then form a blood clot into other arteries of the heart thus blocking its supply.
  2. Type II- This type of Heart Attack occurs when the heart does not receive enough blood supply but there is not complete blockage of the artery. Heart Attacks can occur from torn blood vessels, drug abuse, blood vessel spasm or Hypoxia.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Attack

Heart Attack can present various signs and symptoms before the actual heart attack so that the patient may receive appropriate treatment by identifying the symptoms in time. You should check out the list given below for all the signs and symptoms of Heart Attack.

  1. A pressure or tightness in your chest region.
  2. Pain in the chest region which radiates to your left shoulder and arm.
  3. Pain can even radiate to your neck, throat and jaw.
  4. The patient will also experience shortness of breath and nausea.
  5. The patient will experience symptoms similar to heartburn and indigestion.
  6. The patient will also feel lightheadedness, dizziness, severe anxiety and extreme sweating. 
  7. The patient will also experience heart palpitations and uneven heartbeats.

You should identify the symptoms of heart attack as soon as possible and get the required treatment so as to avoid serious consequences.

Heart Attack Signs & Symptoms, Risk and Recovery

Causes of Heart Attack

Heart Attacks are extremely common and can occur in any person in any age group. Heart attacks are more commonly seen in males than in females. Heart attacks can occur due to the following causes.

  • Coronary Artery Disease- Coronary Artery Disease is the most common cause of Heart Attack. In this condition one or more arteries of your heart are blocked due to the formation of plaques in the coronary arteries. Plaques narrow blood flow to the heart thus forcing the heart to work less efficiently but with more force. If a plaque ruptures the artery then it can lead to the formation of a blood clot in your bloodstream. 
  • Coronary Artery Spasm- In this condition, the coronary artery contracts suddenly and severely which constricts blood flow to the heart. This condition can lead to severe chest pain. This condition is also known as Prinzmetal’s Angina or Vasospastic Angina.
  • Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)- In this condition, the coronary artery gets ruptured and has a tear in it which can lead to haemorrhage inside the heart and block the blood supply of the heart.
  • Infections- Some infections can even lead to the onset of heart attack. These conditions can include COVID-19 and Viral infections.

Risk Factors of Heart Attack

Heart Attack can affect anyone in any age group. Heart Attack can occur due to various risk factors which are given below.

  1. Age- Heart Attack is more common in people over the age of 45 years of age in men. It is less likely to occur in females and it occurs after the age of 55 years in females.
  2. High Blood Pressure- High blood pressure is the leading cause of Heart attack in the elderly population. High Blood pressure can lead to the rupture of already weakened blood vessels due to plaque formation. This leads to blood clot formation in the bloodstream and thus blocks the supply of the heart.
  3. High Cholesterol- High Cholesterol in the blood of the person can lead to the formation of plaques in the arteries of the person. This forms the basis of Coronary Artery Disease. A diet consisting of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) Cholesterol is likely to cause the formation of plaques in small arteries of the heart.
  4. Diabetes- Diabetes is known to increase the risk of heart attack in the patient. This occurs when there is an increase in the levels of blood sugar.
  5. Obesity- Obesity results in a number of problems in the person. Obesity is known to lead to High blood pressure which can ultimately lead to the onset of Heart attack in the patients.
  6. Family History- A person who has a family member with a history of heart attack is more likely to develop Heart Attack. 
  7. Sedentary Lifestyle- A sedentary lifestyle and not enough exercise leads to poor health of the heart and overall poor health of the person. This increases the risk of heart attack in the individual.
  8. Unhealthy Diet- An unhealthy diet which includes cholesterol foods, high salt, high sugar can increase your risk of getting a heart attack.
  9. Stress- Today’s world is filled with a lot of stress and this stress can have a negative impact on the health of your heart. This increases the risk of getting a myocardial infarction.
  10. Illegal Drug Abuse- illegal Drugs such as Cocaine, Amphetamine, Marijuana and alcohol have all been linked with the development of Heart Attack in the person. 
  11. Autoimmune Disease- Autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus can also increase the risk of heart attack in the person as the cells of the body can lead to harm to any part of the body.

Diagnosis of Heart Attack

Heart Attack can be diagnosed with a series of tests which can check for the rhythm of the heartbeat of the person. These tests include-

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)- ECG shows the rhythm of your heartbeat and the number of times your heart beats in a minute. This can form the basis of diagnosing any condition related to the heart of the patient. An ECG can show if you are having a heart attack at the moment or if you have had a heart attack before.
  • Echocardiogram- An Echocardiogram uses ultrasonic sound waves to look for any changes in the functioning of the heart. It forms an image of how the blood moves through the heart and thus makes it easier to look for any abnormalities in the functioning of the heart.
  • Chest Imaging- Chest imaging techniques such as X-rays, CT scan and MRI scans are also useful in determining the cause of Heart attack and whether you are at a risk of getting a heart attack in the future.
  • Blood Tests- Your doctor may also perform a series of blood tests in order to look for cardiac proteins in the bloodstream which are evidence of damage to the structure of the heart. These tests can confirm whether the heart of the person is functioning properly or not.
  • Angiogram- An Angiogram is performed by using a contrast dye to check the structure of the coronary artery and to look for any blockage in the path of the coronary artery.

Treatment of Heart Attack

Heart Attack is a medical emergency and each second after the onset of the heart attack means that more heart tissue is being damaged. This requires immediate treatment to save the life of the patient. Oxygen is applied as soon as the patient arrives in the hospital. The following medications may be used to treat the heart attack conservatively-

  1. Aspirin- Aspirin is the first choice of drug for the treatment of a Heart Attack. It removes the blood clot and keeps your blood flowing through your heart.
  2. Thrombolytics- They are administered to the patient in order to dissolve the clot formed in the artery. This should be given to the patient as soon as they arrive in the hospital.
  3. Blood Thinning agents- Heparin is given to patients who have a tendency to develop blood clots so that their blood becomes less sticky and does not clog together to form/ clots.
  4. Morphine- Morphine is given to patients in order to reduce their chest pain and radiating pain.
  5. Statins- This drug helps to lower the amount of LDL in your blood. A high amount of LDL can lead to clogging of arteries.
  6. Beta Blockers and ACE inhibitors- Beta Blockers and ACE inhibitors are given to patients in order to lower the blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to rupture of the small clogged arteries which can cause heart attack.

If conservative methods do not work then your doctor will perform the following surgical procedures in accordance with the severity and the cause of your condition.

  1. Stent- Your doctor will surgically insert a stent in your blocked artery in order to widen the size of the artery so that blood may pass through it.
  2. Angioplasty- It is performed along with a stent. The doctors will either open up the blocked artery by inserting a balloon like structure in the artery or by manually removing the plaque buildup in the artery.
  3. Pacemaker- A pacemaker is inserted into the heart when the heart is unable to generate the signals necessary for heartbeats. 
  4. Heart Valve Surgery- Heart valve surgery is performed in order to correct any defects in the heart of the person. This helps to maintain a proper blood flow in the heart.
  5. Heart Transplant Surgery- A Heart transplant is performed when the tissue of the heart is damaged beyond repair. In this surgery, the heart of a matching donor is used to replace the heart of the patient.
  6. Heart Bypass Surgery- In this surgery, the doctors reroute the blood around the blockage. This helps in proper blood flow in the heart of the patient.

Complications of Heart Attack

Heart Attack can lead to many complications in the patient if they survive it. These complications can pose problems of their own or they can lead to the development of another heart attack.

  1. Arrhythmias- Heart attacks can cause arrhythmia in the patient which is characterised by irregular heartbeat and skipped heartbeats. This can make the person feel nauseated and some changes in the heartbeat may even prove to be deadly.
  2. Heart Failure- Heart failure is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood into the body due to excessive damage to its tissues. This condition can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.
  3. Cardiogenic Shock- Cardiogenic Shock occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood into the body abruptly. It can occur immediately following a heart attack and can be fatal to the person.
  4. Pericarditis- This condition is characterised by swelling in the sac like structure of the heart due to various reasons. This can occur following a severe infection or a recent heart attack. If this condition is not controlled then it can fill up the space between the layers and the heart leaving no space for the heart to beat into and thus causing a heart attack.
  5. Cardiac Arrest- Cardiac arrest is when the signals monitoring your heart beat suddenly change and the heart stops beating. In this situation the heart is unable to fulfil the needs of the body and can even lead to death of the patient.

Prevention of Heart Attack

A Heart Attack can easily be prevented by just making a few lifestyle changes. You can check out the following methods in order to prevent a Heart Attack.

  1. Eat Healthy- You should always take a healthy diet so that your body may receive all of the necessary nutrients to function properly. Avoid too much salt, sugars and fats in order to maintain a healthy life.
  2. Exercise Regularly- You should exercise regularly in order to maintain your heart’s health. This will prevent any kind of blockage in your heart’s blood supply.
  3. Quit Smoking and Alcohol- Smoking and Alcohol intake can induce clotting of blood and buildup of plaque in your arteries which can lead to a blockage of coronary arteries.
  4. Maintain your Body Weight- A healthy body weight is essential to maintain a good overall health of your body. A healthy body weight can be maintained through regular exercise and a healthy diet.
  5. Manage Stress- Avoid taking too much stress of your day to day life. A lot of stress can have a huge negative impact on your heart and overall health of your body.
  6. Manage high blood pressure and Diabetes- If you have been diagnosed with High Blood Pressure or Diabetes then you need to take extra care of your body and take your medications on time in order to avoid any complications.
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FAQs Related to Heart Attack

What does a Heart Attack feel like?

A Heart Attack starts with shortness of breath and tightness in your chest. The patient will also experience chest pain which can radiate to your left shoulder and your neck and throat. You should immediately seek medical help when you experience these symptoms.

How can I diagnose a heart attack?

A Heart Attack can be diagnosed with the help of diagnostic tests done by the doctor. These tests will include ECG, Echocardiogram, Blood Tests for Cardiac markers and Angiogram. You can also feel the symptoms of the heart attack when it starts.

How long does a Heart Attack last for?

A Heart Attack can last for a few minutes to more than 30 minutes depending on the cause of the heart attack and the severity of it.

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