Heart Attack – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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What is Heart Attack? How common is it?

Heart attack is the slow death of parts of the heart due to lack of blood flow and oxygen. This happens when blood vessels carrying blood to the heart are constricted or blocked.  Heart attack is a condition of failure of the heart and can lead to death of the patient in severe cases. This condition is medically called myocardial infarction.

According to a top cardiologist in Gurgaon,

It is estimated that around the world nearly 17.8 million people suffer from cardio-vascular diseases out of which 80% percent cases are recorded in low income and middle income countries. 

What is Angina? And how is it different from Heart Attack?

Angina is the condition where in the chest area suffers from pain or discomfort due to reduced blood flow in the heart.

Heart attack can be fatal and is characterized by the gradual failure of parts of the heart. Functional failure is characteristic to heart attack, while it is absent in angina. Angina is an indicator of a serious heart disease, but is not directly related to heart attack, although symptomatically it may be similar to heart attack. Angina hardly has fatal consequences.

What are the risk factors of Heart Attack?

Unhealthy lifestyle and lack of physical exercise are the main risk factors for heart attack. Eating food high on cholesterol and fat, smoking, excessive drinking, sedentary lifestyles, excessive stressful daily routines and other such risk factors increase the chances of heart attacks.

What should I do if I am at risk?

When you are at a risk of heart attack, you can:

  • Improve your lifestyle: Cut out drinking and smoking
  • Increase daily exercise: This improves blood flow rate in the heart and helps fight blockages.
  • Undertake stress free exercises like meditation and yoga: reduces chances of stress affecting health and heart.
  • Improve diet with non-fatty food: If there is a constriction seen in the heart, changing to non-fatty food is very important. It helps reduce the chances of further blockage and congestive heart failure.

 

What are its symptoms & warning signs?

The warning signs or symptoms of heart attack are mainly the following:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Palpitation
  • Pain in the chest area
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Numbness in limbs
  • Bluish skin color (in rare cases)

How can Heart Attack be diagnosed?

Heart attack is diagnosed by testing the heart’s performance by using the following tests:

  • Echo Cardiogram: This uses sound vibrations to create images of the internal structure of the heart. Along with images of internal functioning of the heart, the blood flow noises are also captured in this test.
  • Electro Cardiogram: This relies on the passage of electric signals in the heart and reads the heart’s movements in the form of electrical signs on a monitor.
  • Both the above mentioned processes are non-invasive in nature. Other physical examinations used to diagnose heart attacks are MRI scan, CAT scan, PET scan and X-ray.
  • Invasive procedures used to diagnose heart attack are blood tests (to check cardiac enzymes in blood) and cardiovascular catheterization (for internal viewing of blocked or unblocked channels). Angioplasty is often carried out in combination with catheterization.

What are the treatment options?

Heart attack needs to be treated immediately. Treatment of heart attack is aimed towards unblocking the clogged artery and cause free flow of blood back in the heart to reduce muscle death. This is achieved at a trusted hospital using combination of following methods,

  • Antiplatelet medications like glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors and aspirin that prevent blood clot formation in the coronary arteries;
  • Anticoagulant medications like heparin, warfarin and direct thrombin inhibitors that prevent blood clot growth in the coronary arteries;
  • Coronary angiography is conducted followed by Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA) with/without stenting;
  • Medications for dissolving clots like TPK or TNK to open constricted or blocked arteries;
  • Supplemental oxygen provided externally into the heart area that increases supply of oxygen to the heart’s muscle;
  • Medications like nitroglycerin, angiotensin and beta blockers that decrease stress on the heart’s muscle thereby reducing oxygen requirement;
  • Medications that control abnormal heart rhythms;
  • Cardiac surgery – heart bypass surgery

After your treatment for heart attack you will be discharged from the hospital with due medications and follow up routines explained to you. It is ideal to visit your doctor once in a month after the treatment and go through necessary tests to understand if your heart is vulnerable to a second attack.

How can I prevent Heart Attack in the future?

Once you have suffered a heart attack preventing a second one is very important. You can do so by:

  • Taking medications in time and maintaining doctor follow ups as per schedule
  • Maintaining fat free diet
  • Regular exercise with appropriate cardiac monitoring
  • Leading a stress free lifestyle

What lifestyle changes should I make after the treatment?

Regulation of blood flow in the heart cannot be attained unless the diet and lifestyle do not encourage it. The heart must experience regular blood flow and oxygen content in the muscle cells should be high. Thus, the patient needs to modify his diet and lifestyle to include more non-fatty food and exercise in daily life that will help his heart resume normal activity. Lousiness in activity and exercise and unhealthy diet must be avoided as they are the main causes of heart attack today.


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This write-up was contributed by Credihealth content team:

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