What causes a heart attack?
A heart attack is also called a myocardial infarction (MI) or an acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Many heart attacks are caused by a complete blockage of a vessel in your heart, called a coronary artery. A blocked coronary artery prevents oxygen-rich blood and nutrients from reaching a section of the heart. If blood cannot reach the heart muscle, it will die. By getting medical treatment quickly, you can reduce this damage, but once a section of heart muscle dies, the damage lasts forever.
Cardiac arrest refers to a sudden, profound disturbance in the heart’s rhythm that causes the heart to stop beating completely or slow to the point where the life is unsustainable. Cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack, while potentially life threatening, usually offers a short period of time in which treatment can save the person’s life.
Cardiac arrest must be treated immediately to avoid sudden cardiac death (death that results from cardiac arrest). Unfortunately, most people (85 percent) who experience cardiac arrest cannot get help fast enough. Those who survive the event are said to have lived through an “aborted” sudden cardiac death.
Cardiac arrest is most often caused by ventricular fibrillation, a condition in which the heart’s lower chambers quiver rather than pump blood. Ventricular fibrillation is usually accompanied by existing heart disease, especially coronary artery disease and previous heart attack.
How Is A Heart Attack Different From Cardiac Arrest?
A heart attack and cardiac arrest are two different things. A heart attack is when the heart muscle actually dies because it can't get enough oxygen or blood flow usually due to a clogged artery. People who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, diabetics and smokers are at greater risk of developing these plaques that break off and cause a heart attack.
Heart attacks can look differently on different people. Some people complain of chest pain, upper abdominal pain, jaw pain or arm pain. Some complain of shortness of breath or just not feeling quite right. So if you think that you're having a heart attack, go to the emergency room and be evaluated by a physician.
What are the symptoms?
A heart attack usually signals its onset with sudden, powerful chest pain that patients often say feels like a crushing or squeezing sensation or a very heavy weight on their chest. The pain may move to the arm, jaw, shoulder, back, or neck. Other symptoms may include an unexplained shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, sweating, or a sick stomach.
The following are heart attack warning signs :-
Pressure, burning, tightness, or pressure-like discomfort in your chest, lasting five minutes or longer.
Constant indigestion-like discomfort.
Uncomfortable pressure in your chest that moves to your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back.
Lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, or a sick stomach.
Unexplained shortness of breath.
Unexplained anxiety, weakness, nausea or tiredness.
Awareness of abnormalities in the normal beating of the heart, with unexplained sweating and pale skin.
How it occurs ?
A heart attack occurs when the supply of blood and oxygen to an area of heart muscle is blocked, usually by a clot in a coronary artery. If treatment is not started quickly, the affected area of heart muscle begins to die. This injury to the heart muscle can lead to serious complications, and can even be fatal. Sudden death from heart attack is most often due to an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat or rhythm) called ventricular fibrillation. If a person survives a heart attack, the injured area of the heart muscle is replaced by scar tissue. This weakens the pumping action of the heart and can lead to heart failure and other complications.
Effective treatments for heart attack are available that can decrease the chances of sudden death and long-term complications. To be most effective, these treatments must be given fast—within 1 hour of the start of heart attack symptoms. Acting fast can save your life and limit damage to your heart.
Figure A is an overview of the heart and coronary artery showing damage (dead heart muscle) caused by a heart attack. Figure B shows a cross-section of the coronary artery with plaque buildup and a blood clot.
Symptoms and Diagnosis :
The warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack can include:
Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Heart attack pain can sometimes feel like indigestion or heartburn.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Pain, discomfort, or numbness can occur in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
Shortness of breath. Difficulty in breathing often comes along with chest discomfort, but it may occur before chest discomfort.
Other symptoms. Examples include breaking out in a cold sweat, having nausea and vomiting, or feeling light-headed or dizzy.
Signs and symptoms vary from person to person. In fact, if you have a second heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same as for the first heart attack. Some people have no symptoms. This is called a "silent" heart attack.
Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that blocks one of the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that bring blood and oxygen to the heart muscle). When blood cannot reach part of your heart, that area starves for oxygen. If the blockage continues long enough, cells in the affected area die.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common underlying cause of a heart attack. CAD is the hardening and narrowing of the coronary arteries by the buildup of plaque in the inside walls (atherosclerosis). Over time, plaque buildup in the coronary arteries can:
Narrow the arteries so that less blood flows to the heart muscle
Block completely the arteries and the flow of blood
Cause blood clots to form and block the arteries
Symptoms of a possible heart attack include chest pain and pain that radiates down the shoulder and arm. Some people (the elderly, people with diabetes, and women) may have little or no chest pain. Or, they may experience unusual symptoms (shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness).
Women are more likely than men to have symptoms of nausea, vomiting, back or jaw pain, and shortness of breath with chest pain
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
Coronary heart disease develops when one or more of the coronary arteries that supply the blood to the heart become narrower than they used to be, due to the buildup of cholesterol and other substances in the wall of the artery, affecting the blood flow to the heart muscle. Without an adequate blood supply, heart muscle tissue can be damaged.
Deposits of cholesterol and other fat-like substances can build up in the inner lining of these blood vessels and become coated with scar tissue, forming a cholesterol-rich bump in the blood vessel wall known as plaque. Plaque buildup narrows and hardens the blood vessel, a process called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries
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