heart attack causes and risk factors

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heart attack

One of the most serious cardiovascular conditions is a myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack. Just like any other organ, the muscles in your heart also need oxygen to survive. A heart attack occurs when this oxygen supply is severely reduced or cut off completely due to the heart muscles becoming weak leading to their inability to pump blood. Though it’s a serious condition, when treated in time, you can live a normal and productive life.

Often the term ‘heart attack’ is used interchangeably with the term ‘cardiac arrest’, but they are not the same. While in a heart attack, the blood flow to the heart is constricted due to a circulation-related problem, cardiac arrest meaning is when the heart stops functioning suddenly due to a malfunction or an electrical problem.

what causes a heart attack?

Here are some causes of a heart attack:

  1. One of the most common causes of heart attack (CHD) is coronary heart disease, which is the clogging of your coronary arteries with deposits such as fat, cholesterol, and plaque. When this deposit ruptures, it leads to a blood clot that blocks the blood supply triggering a heart attack in the process. When this buildup, known as atherosclerosis, continues unchecked, it may lead to congestive heart failure. CHD is caused due to reasons such as:
  • High cholesterol
  • Consuming a high-calorie diet
  • High blood pressure or hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Long-term use of stimulant drugs such as cocaine and meth. This is also one of the main causes of cardiac arrest.
  • Poor lung function
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning

2. Sudden spasms in the arteries that may cause twitching or cutting off of the blood supply may also cause a heart attack or heart failure.

3. Tears or ruptures in the arteries due to trauma or injury.

4. A blood clot from elsewhere in the body that gets trapped in the artery.

what are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Here are some heart attack symptoms to look out for:

1.      One of the most common heart blockage symptoms is angina (chest pain). This could be mild or severe. This may start in the chest and radiate to your left (or both) arms, jaw, back, neck, and waist.

2.      Shortness of breath is one of the common heart disease symptoms.

3.      Stomach discomfort or nausea.

4.      Palpitations are among the oft-cited heart problem symptoms.

5.      Sweating

6.      Dizziness, fainting, or light-headedness.

what are the risk factors of a heart attack?

Certain factors put some people at a higher risk of heart attacks than other people. These include:

1.      Your age and gender play a major role in your being at risk for a heart attack. Men are at a higher risk post the age of 50 years. Women’s risk increases after the age of 50 and menopause.

2.      Family history of coronary heart diseases (the most common type of heart disease) and heart attacks is one of the major risk factors.

3.      Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as lack of physical activity and poor dietary choices put you at a higher risk of heart diseases. These include consuming too much sodium, sugar, fat and long-term dependence on alcohol and smoking.

4.      Lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, when unchecked, may lead to a heart attack. The high levels of blood glucose damage the coronary nerves and blood vessels leading to this condition.

5.      A history of high blood pressure, that causes your arteries to strain and get damaged, may lead to a heart attack when left untreated.

6.      Obesity is a major risk factor that causes clogging of the arteries.

7.      People who experience chronic stress, anxiety, or depression are at a higher risk of this condition. Your body produces cortisol under stressful conditions that contribute to increasing your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides, leading to a higher risk of a heart attack.

what are the different types of heart attacks?

Heart attacks are classified into three types:

1.      ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction: Also known as STEMI, this occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked completely leading to a stoppage of blood flow. This is a serious form of heart attack that has symptoms such as chest pain, arm or back pain, anxiety, light-headedness, nausea, and cold sweats.

2.      Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction: Known also as NSTEMI, this occurs when a coronary artery is partially blocked. This type of heart attack doesn’t show up on an ECG and is diagnosed through a blood test and elevated troponin protein levels.

3.      Coronary artery spasm: Also known as CAS, unstable angina, or a silent heart attack, this occurs due to tightening of the coronary arteries leading to stoppage in the blood flow. While there is no permanent damage in this and they are not as serious as the other two types of heart attacks, this does increase the risk of another heart attack.

what is the treatment for heart attack?

Heart attack is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention. Once the diagnosis is confirmed through equipment for cardiac care, your treatment will include:

  1. First aid for heart attack: This includes medications such as aspirin or thrombolytics to prevent clotting of blood, oxygen therapy, and pain relievers. You may also be advised beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors to help relax your heart muscles and reduce the stress on the heart.
  2. Treatment of myocardial infarction: Depending on the severity of your heart condition, treatment of myocardial infarction may include
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery is a heart failure treatment that involves the sewing of veins or arteries around the narrowed artery.
  • Coronary stenting and angioplasty is a heart attack treatment in which, a catheter is inserted to find and treat blockages.

Following a healthy lifestyle can prevent heart attacks and other coronary conditions. It is also advised to undergo routine check-ups to know the health of your heart to arrest cardiac problems before they become serious.   

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