Sunday, 20 September 2015 00:12

Understanding Heart Attacks

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Understanding Heart Attacks






When one thinks of a heart attack, their intial thought is that it is occurring in the heart walls. This is a common misconception as heart attacks begin in the coronary arteries that feed the heart muscle. These coronary arteries thicken and stiffen over time and eventually clog which is known as arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis occurs when the arteries can no longer deliver enough blood to the heart (Daniels, 2007). As less and less blood is delivered to the heart because of arteriosclerosis, there is a significant reduction in oxygen which causes the heart tissue to slowly die which weakens its ability to function normally thus causing it to falter or stop beating. Coronary heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the USA accounting for more than 650,000 deaths each year.


How does Arteriosclerosis occur?


It is thought by many health professionals that arteriosclerosis occurs when the inner lining of an artery develops a weak point due to an injury or scarring. This weak point or scarring can be caused by high blood pressure, cholesterol, carbon monoxide poisoning from cigarette smoke or inflammation (just to name a few factors). As the body tries to repair that weak spot various nutrients and bi products of cells like cholesterol, fats, platelets etc gather forming a plaque like substance that narrows the artery walls (Daniels, 2007). When this happens, the blood flow to the heart is impacted which can cause a condition known as myocardial ischemia. This condition can happen without any symptoms or feelings of pain or it can cause a pressing, tight chest feeling especially during exercise when the demands for blood to the heart is increased.


What is more concerning than a partial block caused by a weak point in the artery is a complete blockage of a blood vessel or coronary artery, This occurs when the plaque that is building up at a weak point on the artery wall breaks of and travels in the blood stream where it lodges itself into a smaller more narrower vessel causing complete blockage. If this vessel blockage happens to feed the brain then this is known as a Stroke, if however the blockage is in the coronary artery then it causes a heart attack.  







Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack


It is important to note that some heart attacks can occur without you even knowing you have had one. More often though there are chest symptoms which have ben identified below:


  • intense feelings of a tight band that has been wrapped around your chest.

  • extreme and intense pressure in the chest like someone was sitting on your chest.

  • Pain felt in the arms, shoulders and left side of the jaw.

  • Females may identify with other symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath, sweating and dizzyness (Daniels, 2007).



Treatment Options for a Heart Attack


Once a diagnosis has occurred, treatment usually involves surgery or drugs in combination with a healthy lifestlye that includes regular exercise and a healthy diet.. One type of drug issued to heart attack patients is a cholesterol lowering drug which reduces the plaque build up on the artery walls. Other types of drugs can also assist to reduce blood pressure as well as the effectiveness of the artery walls to contract and relax allowing the walls to work more efficiently. If exercise, diet and drugs aren't succesful in keeping the blood vessels open then surgery might be needed. Heart sugery involves bypassing a blocked artery by attaching a blood vessel from elsewhere in a person's body to the aorta at one end and an unblocked portion of the coronary artery at the other (Daniels, 2007). A surgeon may also use a small balloon that is inflated into the artery to squash the plaque against the artery wall thus reducing the blockage. A stent may also be used in surgey to keep the artery wall open. A stent is a lattice like tube of steel that is inserted into an artery wall and may be coated with drugs to reduce the artery from clogging up in the future.









Preventing a Heart Attack from Happening


Preventing a heart attack from occuring involves controlling or removing the risks. Below I have identified some prevention strategies:


  •  Weight must be kept within normal weight limits.

  •  Exercise at least 30 minutes a day at a rate where you find it hard to maintain a conversation.

  • Refrain from smoking as the carbon monoxide from cigarettes can have impact on creating weak points in the artery walls.

  • Manage and control blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This involves regular check-ups with your GP.















Daniels, P et al. (2007) Body: The Complete Human - How it grows, How it works and how to keep it healthy and strong. National Geographic Society USA.







Read 2403 times Last modified on Sunday, 20 September 2015 01:30

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