A heart attack occurs when a blockage forms in the heart or in the arteries around the heart, resulting in restricted blood flow to a section of the heart muscle. When it occurs, the flow of blood must be restored a quickly as possible in order to avoid death of the tissue around the heart. The heart muscle requires a constant supply of oxygen to remain alive and optimally functioning.
When an attack occurs, treatment should begin within one hour of the onset of the heart attack symptoms. If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, dial 911 right away.
Heart attacks are a serious threat to one's health. They are the number one leading cause death in the United States each year.
Common causes of a heart attack:
Most attacks are caused by the slow buildup over time of plaque in the coronary arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Plaque is a fatty substance that is more prevalent in people with high cholesterol. The condition of excessive plaque buildup in the arteries is called atherosclerosis.
Once plaque buildup becomes severe enough, it can rupture and cause a blood clot to form around it. This blood clot can become so large that it blocks the blood flow to the heart, causing the attack.
What conditions increase the chances?
People with the following conditions, personal histories and behaviors face an elevated risk of heart attack:
- A history of vascular disease, such as atherosclerotic coronary heart disease.
- A previous heart attack or stroke.
- Previous episodes of abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmia.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Abuse of certain drugs.
- High triglyceride levels.
- High low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
- High blood pressure.
- Chronic high stress levels.
How does a heart attack affect the body ?
A heart attack can affect the body in a number of ways, including:
- If the attack is serious and does not get treated within the first hour or so, some or all of the tissue in the area around the heart can die due to a lack of oxygen. This condition is called necrosis. The heart muscles that suffer from necrosis are no longer able to function the way they could before. The result is that the heart can not pump blood as efficiently. Afterward, the victim must be even more careful than they used to be in terms of how they choose to live their daily life.
- Some people who have had a heart attack have chronic arrhythmia, whereby they experience irregular rhythms in their heart beat.
- Problems with heart valves: valves control the direction of the flow of blood, and leakages are a very serious threat to good health.
- Congestive heart failure: this is a condition whereby the damaged heart can no longer pump sufficient amounts of blood to the other organs of the body. This can result in chronic fatigue and an increase in body weight due to the accumulation of fluids.
Psychological and lifestyle changes after a heart attack :
Having an attack can be a traumatic experience. Many people who have survived them report the need to make drastic changes to their exercise routines and diets in order to reduce the chances of another attack. Some victims make sweeping lifestyle changes, such as building fewer stressful activities into their daily schedules and "taking it easy" more often. Many people who have been through one feel the need to re-evaluate their goals, values and priorities – and some even manage to turn the episode into a learning experience.
Prevention is the key:
The best way to avoid a heart attack is to get screened using ultrasound and other cutting-edge, non-invasive health screening technologies. You can find locally-available cardiovascular health screenings in your area.