A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when the heart is started of blood rich oxygen. It can occure because the arteries are blocked and cannot deliver blood as needed to the heart. When this happens, cells begin to die and the heart works overtime to deliver blood and oxygen to keep your body healthy.
The exact cause of most heart attacks is not always known. A heart attack may occur:
• While you are under physical exertion
• While you are under emotional stress
• While you are resting
• When you move about in very cold weather
• When your system is not functioning properly, such as caused by other illness
A heart attack is always a serious condition and you should be seen my medical personnel as quickly as possible. You should call 911 or your local emergency call number as soon as possible. You should not try to drive or delay assessment. The greatest chance of recovery happens when you are attended to in the early minutes after the heart attack.
Different people will describe their pain and symptoms in a variety of manners. Most will feel like they have some of the following:
• Tightness in the chest
• Pressure in the chest and down through the abdomen
• Light headedness or a dizzy feeling
• Pain in the head, chest, neck, arms, or back
• Numbness in the arms or a tingling feeling
• Shortness of breath or a quick feeling of heat. Sweating may occur
Patients should realize that many people never feel a symptom prior to having a heart attack. Some may have very little chest pain and my dismiss their symptoms as common indigestion. Most heart attacks are over very quickly, sometimes lasting about 20 minutes.
Your doctor will order several tests to determine the cause of the heart attack and the amount of damage that has been done to you heart. Depending on where you are seen immediately following your heart attack may determine your course of treatment. You will be hooked up to a heart monitor which will provide tracking data on how your heart is working. You will be given medicines, probably both orally and intraveniously (IV).
Sometimes a heart attack can cause an abnormal heartbeat. You may be given additional medications to combat the effects. Sometimes electric shock is needed to put your heart back into normal beating patterns.
Most importantly, the discussion between you and your physician about getting your heart healthy is of the utmost importance. Whether you need to have a discussion about surgery, medications or lifestyle changes is key to leading a healthy life after a heart attack.
Once you have had a heart attack, you are at elevated risk to have another one. Those risk factors and your long term prognosis depend on how much damage has already occurred to your heart. Most people think of a heart attack as a death sentence, however for many people it is a severe warning signal that necessitates change. If the damage is severe it may warrant surgery. Many people who have heart attacks were never aware they had heart disease, so making lifestyle changes and including certain medications can dramatically improve your long term prognosis. You can live with heart disease as long as you make fundamental changes in your health, eating habits and exercise routine.