Signs & Treatment of a Heart Attack

Heart attacks, also known as myocardial infarctions, are very common world over. During a heart attack, the normal blood supply that nourishes the heart with oxygen is cut off, and as a result, the heart muscle begins to die. It is always advisable that one consult a heart specialist to be sure that one does not suffer from any heart disease.

What actually happens during a heart attack?

Muscles of the heart require a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood to nourish them. The coronary arteries supply the heart with this blood. If an individual has coronary artery disease, those arteries become clogged, resulting in constricted blood flow. Calcium, proteins, and fatty matter build up in the arteries to form plaque. These plaque deposits are hard on the outside and soft on the inside. When the plaque is hard, the outer part of it breaks and platelets come into the artery and blood clots form around the plaque. The blood clot can totally block the artery. This leads to the heart muscles not getting enough supply of oxygen-rich blood to nourish it. Within a short period of time, death of heart muscle cells starts occurring, causing permanent damage. This is what a heart attack is. A heart attack can also be caused by spasms of the coronary artery, although it is unusual. During a coronary spasm, the arteries spasm on and off, reducing the blood supply to the heart muscle.

As each coronary artery supplies blood to a particular region of heart, the amount of damage to the heart depends on the size of the area that is supplied blood by the blocked artery. If possible, visit the best heart hospital in India for diagnoses and treatment of a heart attack.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort – Feeling of pressure, fullness, or a squeezing pain in the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain and discomfort – Any pain that goes beyond the chest to other parts of your upper body, like one or both of the arms, back, neck, stomach, teeth, or jaw.
  • Fullness, indigestion, or a choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
  • Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats

In case of a heart attack, these symptoms can last for 30 minutes or longer, and are not relieved by rest. Some people may even suffer a heart attack without witnessing any symptoms. This is called a “silent myocardial infarction”. Women are more likely to have additional issues, like neck, shoulder, upper back, or abdominal pain, as compared to men.

If anyone has these symptoms, it is advisable that they are rushed to a heart hospital at the earliest for treatment.

What Is the Treatment for a Heart Attack?

Drugs and surgical procedures are used to treat a heart attack. The goal of medicines is to break-up clots or prevent the blood from forming them, to stabilize the plaque, prevent platelets from sticking to the plaque, and to prevent further ischemia.

Medication for the treatment must be given as soon as possible, i.e. within one to two hours from the start of the heart attack. This will help decrease the amount of heart damage. Drugs used for treatment during a heart attack may include:

  • Anti-platelets to prevent blood clotting that may aggravate during a heart attack
  • Clot busters to dissolve any blood clots present in the heart’s arteries
  • A combination of the above

Other drugs may be given during or after a heart attack. This is done to lessen the heart’s work, improve functioning of heart, to widen or dilate blood vessels, decrease the pain, and prevent any life-threatening heart rhythms.

During or after a heart attack, the patient may be taken to the lab for evaluation of the status of the heart, arteries, and the amount of heart damage. The amount of damage suffered by the heart will determine the need for surgical intervention. These procedures may include:

  • Angioplasty, where stents are used to open the narrowed or blocked arteries
  • Bypass surgery to restore the heart muscles’ supply of blood

It should be kept in mind that these treatments, both medication and surgical procedures, do not cure coronary artery disease. A person who has suffered a heart attack will always remain susceptible to another heart attack. A heart attack can happen again. But, there are several steps one can take prevent further attacks.

These steps include a change in lifestyle and not over-exerting oneself. One should also consult a cardiologist for further precautions they can take. If you can, you should consult the best cardiologist in India to understand all that you can about the signs of heart attacks, and its treatment.