A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, is a life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood flow to the heart is blocked, depriving it of oxygen and nutrients. Timely recognition and proper understanding of heart attacks are essential for prompt medical intervention and increased chances of survival.
In this article, we will explore into the causes, symptoms, and prevention of heart attacks, shedding light on this critical health concern.
A heart attack typically occurs when the coronary arteries, responsible for supplying blood to the heart, become narrowed or blocked. The most common cause is the accumulation of fatty deposits in the arterial wall resulting in plaque formation and the development of coronary artery disease. Factors that contribute to plaque development include:
High cholesterol levels: Elevated levels of lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood can promote plaque formation.
High blood pressure: Uncontrolled hypertension puts strain on the arteries, increasing the likelihood of plaque build up.
Smoking: The chemicals present in tobacco smoke damage the blood vessels and accelerate the formation of plaque.
Diabetes: Individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing coronary artery disease due to underlying metabolic abnormalities.
Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity contributes to various risk factors associated with heart attacks, including obesity and high blood pressure.
Recognising the symptoms of a heart attack is crucial for seeking immediate medical attention. While symptoms may vary among individuals, some common signs include:
Chest pain or discomfort: Often described as a tightness, pressure, or squeezing sensation in the chest, this is the most prominent symptom of a heart attack.
Pain radiating to the arm, shoulder, neck, jaw, or back: The discomfort may extend beyond the chest, spreading to other areas of the upper body.
Shortness of breath: Feeling breathless, especially during physical exertion or at rest, can indicate an impending heart attack.
Nausea, vomiting, or indigestion: Some individuals experience gastrointestinal symptoms, often mistaking them for a stomach-related problem.
Profuse sweating: Unexplained and excessive sweating, often accompanied by cold, clammy skin, may occur during a heart attack.
Fatigue and light headedness: Feeling unusually tired or dizzy, sometimes leading to fainting, can be warning signs of a heart attack.
Fortunately, many heart attacks can be prevented by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. Here are some effective preventive measures:
Maintain a balanced diet: Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit the intake of saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
Engage in regular exercise: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activityeach week. Incorporate strength training exercises to improve overall cardiovascular health.
Quit smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for heart attacks. Seek support from healthcare professionals or support groups to quit smoking.
Control blood pressure and cholesterol: OMonitor your blood pressureand cholesterol levels regularly. If they are elevated, work with your healthcare provider to develop a management plan.
Manage diabetes: Keep your blood sugar levels under control through medication, diet, exercise, and regular check-ups.
Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity increases the risk of heart attacks. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular physical activity.
Manage stress: Find healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress, such as engaging in relaxation techniques, meditation, or pursuing hobbies.
A heart attack is a serious medical condition that necessitates immediate medical attention. By understanding the causes, recognising the symptoms, and implementing preventive measures, you can reduce the risk of experiencing a heart attack. Embrace a heart-healthy lifestyle to safeguard your cardiovascular health and enhance your overall well-being.
Remember, early intervention is key to preventing heart attacks and improving outcomes.
Dr Charis Costopoulos is a highly esteemed and experienced consultant cardiologist who specialises in both general and interventional cardiology. His main areas of expertise include the treatment of patients with coronary artery disease, chest pain, palpitations, breathlessness, heart failure, and valvular heart disease. He performs a variety of interventional procedures including coronary angioplasty (stent insertion), transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), MitraClip implantation and patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure amongst many others. He currently practises at the world-renowned Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge and at the prestigious London-based One Heart Clinic.