Heart disease is the number one cause of death both men and women in the United States. But fortunately, today there are superior treatments for heart attack that can rescue lives and forbid disabilities. Treatment is almost efficient when started within 1 minute of the start of symptoms. Many more people could recover from heart attacks if they got help faster. Of the people who die from heart attacks, about half die within an hour of the first symptoms and before they reach the hospital.
A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle itself – the myocardium – is severely reduced or stopped. The reduction or stoppage happens when one or more of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle is blocked. This is usually caused by the buildup of plaque (deposits of fat-like substances), a process called atherosclerosis. The plaque can eventually burst, tear or rupture, creating a “snag” where a blood clot forms and blocks the artery. This leads to a heart attack.
If the blood supply is cut off for more than a few minutes, muscle cells suffer permanent injury and die. This can kill or disable someone, depending on how much heart muscle is damaged. The medical term for heart attack is myocardial infarction. A heart attack is also sometimes called a coronary thrombosis or coronary occlusion.
If you or someone that you’re with is having a heart attack:
1. Call 9-1-1 within a few minutes.
2. Only take an ambulance to the hospital. Going in a private car can delay treatment.
3. Take a nitroglycerin pill if your doctor has prescribed this type of medicine.
4. Put an aspirin under your tongue. Aspirin reduces blood clotting and can help keep a heart attack from getting worse. But don’t delay calling 9-1-1 to take an aspirin.