Heart attack - symptoms and treatment

Heart attack - symptoms and treatment - picture

FragmentHealth.com » The cardiovascular system » Heart Attack symptoms

What is Heart Attack

Heart attack is the interruption of cardiovascular function. The most common cause of HEART attack is MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION, a blockage of the CORONARY ARTERIES, usually with a BLOOD clot, that disrupts the flow of blood to the heart (MYOCARDIUM). Other causes of heart attack include ARRHYTHMIA, systemic HYPOXIA (such as may occur with drowning or carbon monoxide poisoning), and ELECTROCUTION. About 1.3 million Americans experience heart attacks each year, and 40 percent of them die as a result. Health experts believe significantly more people could survive heart attack with early treatment. Up to 60 percent of people who die from heart attack do so before ever reaching a hospital.

When symptoms suggest heart attack:

  • Call 911
  • If the person is conscious, have him or her chew an aspirin
  • If the person is unconscious, has no PULSE or is not BREATHING, begin CARDIOPULMONARY RESUSCITATION (CPR)
  • Continue CPR until medical help arrives

When the heart is not beating or cannot beat effectively, oxygen does not get to the body’s tissues. Within seconds the body begins to shut down nonessential functions. The BRAIN and the heart itself are the most vulnerable to damage resulting from lack of oxygen; their cells begin to die within three minutes. Immediate CARDIOPULMONARY RESUSCITATION (CPR) can restore OXYGENATION and prevent permanent damage or death. However, the likelihood of survival diminishes by about 10 percent for each minute that passes following the heart’s stoppage.

Symptoms of Heart Attack and Diagnostic Path

Symptoms vary far more widely than most people realize. The classic symptoms of heart attack are

  • intense chest pressure, often crushing
  • rapid BREATHING
  • profuse sweating (diaphoresis)
  • PAIN that radiates from the chest up the left arm
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

Many people, and especially women, do not experience classic heart attack symptoms. Instead, their symptoms are more generalized. The danger is that they delay seeking treatment because they are unsure whether they are having a heart attack. Such a delay can be the difference between surviving and dying from a heart attack. Nonclassic heart attack signs include

  • NAUSEA and occasionally VOMITING associated with a sense of queasiness
  • persistent indigestion (DYSPEPSIA)
  • unexplainable anxiety
  • vague discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, or back
  • lightheadedness

Warning signs that persist for five minutes require immediate medical assessment. More people survive heart attacks than do not, and more people could survive heart attacks if they received prompt medical treatment. Cardiologists recommend chewing an aspirin tablet at the first signs of possible heart attack, which helps slow the clotting process.

The diagnostic path begins with ELECTROCARDIOGRAM (ECG), which shows the heart’s electrical patterns and can usually identify the location of the disrupted function. Regardless of cause, heart attack produces arrhythmias (irregularities of the HEART RATE). Blood tests to measure electrolyte levels and certain proteins that a damaged heart MUSCLE releases also help point to the diagnosis. ECHOCARDIOGRAM can show areas of structural damage to the heart, and CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION with ANGIOGRAM can identify the precise sites of occlusions in the coronary arteries.

Heart Attack Treatment Options and Outlook

Treatment begins with stabilizing the heart’s function, which may require various medications including antiarrhythmia medications and drugs that strengthen the heart while reducing the force of its contractions. DEFIBRILLATION may be necessary to restore a functional rhythm to the heart. When doctors can determine within three hours that the cause of the heart attack is a blood clot, they may choose to administer thrombolytic medications (“clot busters”) to dissolve the clot as well as anticoagulant medications to prevent further clots. Beyond three hours, thrombolytic medications are not effective. Supportive measures include OXYGEN THERAPY to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood and intravenous fluids to maintain HYDRATION and restore electrolyte balance.

Once the heart recovers, the cardiologist may recommend interventions such as ANGIOPLASTY or CORONARY ARTERY BYPASS GRAFT (CABG) to restore adequate circulation to the heart. Other treatments typically include medications to help regulate the heartbeat and strengthen the heart, and lifestyle modifications for improved cardiovascular health. Treatment also targets any identified underlying causes of the heart attack such as HYPERTENSION (high BLOOD PRESSURE) and ATHEROSCLEROSIS. Current treatment protocols recommend nearly everyone who has a heart attack take statin medications afterward. Statins are lipid-lowering medications that can reduce CHOLESTEROL BLOOD LEVELS, notably low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) by 30 to 40 percent within three months. Statins also help strengthen the heart. Other medications may include beta blockers or calcium channel blockers to lower blood pressure and regulate rhythm. Depending on the heart attack’s severity (the extent of damage to the heart), a person may return to regular activities within a few weeks or require several months to recuperate. Most people benefit from a structured CARDIAC REHABILITATION program.

Risk Factors and Preventive Measures

The primary risk factors for heart attack are CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE (CAD) and hypertension. Many people are unaware that they have either one, so heart attack becomes the first recognition that these conditions exist. Regular ROUTINE MEDICAL EXAMINATION, including tests to measure cholesterol blood levels and blood pressure, help detect these conditions in their early stages, when therapeutic intervention can thwart their progression to lifethreatening events such as heart attack and STROKE. Key preventive measures include daily physical exercise, nutritious eating habits, WEIGHT LOSS AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT, SMOKING CESSATION, and management of conditions such as hypertension and DIABETES.

See also CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE PREVENTION; LIFESTYLE AND CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH; MEDICATIONS TO TREAT CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE; PHYSICAL EXERCISE AND CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH; ROUTINE MEDICAL EXAMINATION.

Resource: Facts On File Encyclopedia Of Health And Medicine

Each atricle being rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars.
Please rate this article
Article Rating: 2,3 stars of 5

Discussion and opinions:

Insert your opinion:

Tweet this page

Other Articles

Aerobic fitness and Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular system |

Aerobic Fitness and Cardiovascular System The efficiency with which the cardiovascular system functions to meet the oxygen needs of cells throughout the body, particularly under the increased pressure of intense physical activity or exercise. The higher a person’s aerobic FITNESS LEVEL, the more air the LUNGS can take in each breath, the more oxygen

Aging, cardiovascular changes that occur with

The cardiovascular system |

The most significant age-related changes in cardiovascular function occur at birth in both sexes and with MENOPAUSE in women. Though changes in METABOLISM occur with aging that affect all body systems, researchers now believe cardiovascular health does not inherently decline simply as a function of aging. DIABETES, OBESITY, lack of physical exercise, and

Aneurysm definition and symptoms

The cardiovascular system |

What is Aneurysm and Definition Aneurysm is a weakened and often distended (stretched) area in the wall of an ARTERY. Though an aneurysm may develop in any artery, the most common location is the descending or abdominal AORTA. An aneurysm is potentially life-threatening. The continual pressure of the BLOOD flowing through the artery pressures the weakened

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome

The cardiovascular system |

What is Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome - An inherited ARRHYTHMIA disorder in which an extra conduction pathway, called an accessory pathway, exists between the heart’s atria and ventricles. The accessory pathway allows the heart’s electrical pacing impulse to bypass the normal conductive route, reaching the

Ventricular fibrillation - treatment

The cardiovascular system |

What is Ventricular Fibrillation Ventricular fibrillation - Rapid, irregular, ineffective contractions of the heart’s ventricles. Ventricular fibrillation quickly becomes fatal without treatment. The HEART cannot pump blood to the LUNGS or to the body when it is in ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is a life-threatening event that

Ventricular assist devices (VADs)

The cardiovascular system |

What is Ventricular assist devices (VADs) Ventricular Assist Devices - Implanted mechanical pumps that aid the native HEART, taking over some of the workload of the ventricles. Several types of VADs are available, each with somewhat different features and functions. A VAD may assist the right or left ventricle, and in some cases both ventricles, as a

Venogram - diagnostic procedure - definition

The cardiovascular system |

What is Venogram - diagnostic procedure Venogram is a diagnostic procedure to evaluate the flow of blood in the veins, usually in the legs. The cardiologist may use venogram to diagnose VARICOSE VEINS, VENOUS INSUFFICIENCY, or DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS (DVT). For venogram, the radiologist injects a small amount of contrast dye into the affected VEIN network and

Chronic Venous Insufficiency - symptoms and treatment

The cardiovascular system |

What is chronic Venous Insufficiency and Symptoms Venous insufficiency is a chronic condition in which the veins cannot adequately return BLOOD to the HEART, usually as a consequence of defective valves that allow blood to leak back and pool in the veins. Some people do not have valves in their veins, a circumstance that is a CONGENITAL ANOMALY. Venous

Vena Cava - Function and definition

The cardiovascular system |

Vena Cava are the two largest veins in human body together called the venae. These veins collectively return deoxygenated BLOOD to the HEART. Both of them deplete all the blood into the right atrium. The superior vena cava, large but short vein, brings blood from the upper part of the organism, the head and upper limbs, and empties into the top of the right

Vein - what is and definition

The cardiovascular system |

What is Vein and Definition Vein - A blood vessel that carries BLOOD to the HEART. All veins except the PULMONARY VEINS carry deoxygenated blood; the pulmonary veins return oxygenated blood to the heart from the LUNGS. Because veins lack the muscular structure and contractile capability of arteries, they have valves that keep blood moving only in one