What is a Heart Attack (CVD)?
The heart, made up of specialized muscle cells known as myocytes, is a mechanical pump that propels blood through the circulatory system, thereby ensuring the delivery of oxygen and other essential elements to the body’s vital organs. In order to perform this life-sustaining task, the heart itself requires a steady supply of oxygen, which it receives through the coronary arteries. An insufficient supply of blood and oxygen causes myoctye injury and cellular death. This process is referred to as a heart attack, or in medical terms a myocardial infraction.
The death of myocytes has several important effects, which include:
- Reduced heart performance and pumping efficiency
- Reduced blood and oxygen supply to vital organs: the brain, kidneys, intestines, liver.
- Increased irritability of the heart’s electrical system
- Slowing, racing or erratic beating of the heart, each of which can be life-threatening.
In a majority of instances, a heart attack occurs when a blood clot, also referred to as a thrombus or the process of thrombosis, suddenly develops within a coronary artery. Coronary arteries themselves contain a buildup of plaque (deposits of fat-like substances) due to a process known as atherosclerosis. When plaque bursts or ruptures, it leads to either partial or complete blockage of coronary artery blood flow and life-sustaining oxygen delivery to the heart muscle (myocardium). The blood vessel interprets, or perhaps more precisely misinterprets plaque breakage as a “breach of integrity” and a risk for serious bleeding.
Who is at Risk for a Heart Attack?
The development of coronary atherosclerosis represents a major and most common risk for a heart attack. Though unique in their own right, atherosclerosis and thrombosis share common origins and are linked by genetic and environmental factors. Thus, risk factors for atherosclerosis are also recognized for a heart attack. Atherosclerosis typically begins in the mid-to- late second and early third decades of life, with the accumulation of fatty material.
- Traditional Risk Factors
- High Blood Pressure
- Tobacco Smoking
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Metabolic Syndrome
- High Blood Cholesterol
- Genetics and Family History of CHD
What can I do to reduce my risk for a heart attack?
The specific recommendations to prevent heart attack are:
- Avoid exposure (Active or Passive)to tobacco smoke.
- Maintain a healthy eating pattern.
- Maintain blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg.
- Lower cholesterol to appropriate level based on individual risk.
- Perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most (preferable all) days of the week.
- Achieve and maintain an ideal body weight and abdominal circumference.
- Maintain a normal fasting blood sugar (below 110 mg/dl).
- Warning Signs of a Heart Attack, Rapid Response and Community Action
Heart attack pain is characteristically described as a deep, visceral sensation – an oppressive feeling or discomfort – located in the chest under the breast bone, and frequently expressed as choking, constricting, heavy, squeezing, pressure-like, vise-like or burning.
The American Heart Association and National Heart Lung, and Blood Institute have launched a new “act in time” campaign that emphasizes the importance of calling 9-1-1 immediately at the onset of heart attack symptoms. Receiving immediate medical attention improves the chances of surviving a heart attack as well as of benefiting from a variety of medications and treatments designed specifically to minimize the extent of heart damage and facilitate recovery. Many physicians and doctors thus refers the use of AED Pads (Automated External Defibrillators). AEDs or automated external defibrillators are the electronic devices which can be handy in diagnosis of the potentially life threatening cardiac arrest of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia in a patient or sportsperson. AED helps them treat through defibrillation, the application of electrical therapy which stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm.
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