What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack is the sudden death of part of the heart muscle. This is usually caused by the blockage of vital blood supply to the heart by a clot of blood, ot thrombosis, in one of the coronary ateries. This is known as a ‘coronary thrombosis’, often shortened to ‘a coronary’!
The heart muscle is called the myocardium and the resultant death of this tissue following a coronary thrombosis is medically termed a ‘myocardial infarction’. Doctors in fact use either of these terms to describe a heart attack.
Would you believe it? The heart pumps 1 gallon of blood every minute. That’s equivalent to 8 tons of blood a day!
Your heart started beating 7 months before you were born and will continue to do so without rest until the day you die!
Heart disease is less common in the Mediterranean countries. Although many of these people are heavy smokers, they seem to get protection from their diet of plenty of fish, poultry, fresh fruit, salads, vegetables, olive oil and garlic. Even the siesta is thought to confer some protective effect!
Who gets heart attacks?
In the UK about 1,400 people suffer a heart attack each day, and unfortunately, about 500 of these will die as a result.
Heart attacks are more common in men than women, though women after the menopause face a higher risk of getting a heart attack, as the protective effect of their female hormone oestrogen decreases. Women on HRT still receive oestrogen and are therfore protected against heart attacks (and strokes). Heart attacks kill 7,000 women each year compared to 1,000 deaths from cancer of the cervix, and 6,000 from breast cancer!
Smokers, with cigarettes being more dangerous than cigars and pipes.
Those with a history of heart attacks in the family, especially if the coronary occurred under the age of 60 yrs.
Those with diabetes.
Those with high blood pressure.
Those with high blood fats, cholesterol and triglyceride.
Those who are overweight and don’t exercise regularly.
What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
A heart attack usually causes a severe, crushing pain across the chest, which often feels like a very heavy weight on the chest. The pain often spreads into the neck or down the arms especially the left arm. The pain is not relieved by resting, is often associated with breathlessness, and the patient feels very frightened!
Angina is a similar type of pain, but it is not so severe, and is usually relieved by resting or sitting down. The pain then wears off, so that the patient can continue with whatever activity they were doing. Angina patients often relieve their symptoms with small tablets placed under the tongue, or by using a sublingual spray which has the same beneficial effect. The pain of a heart attack is not relieved by these angina treatments, and so the patient must receive medical attention immediately.
It has been found that the sooner a patient receives a simple aspirin during the onset of an heart attack then the better their chances of survival! It might be worth your while to carry one soluble aspirin with you at all times. I’m considering it!!
Most patients with a heart attack will be admitted into hospital, where they may receive treatment known as a ‘clotbuster’ which dissovles the offending clot or thrombosis which is blocking the artery to the heart’s own muscle.
Pain relief is afforded by powerful drugs such as morphine and heroin, and other drugs may be given to regulate the heart rate or strengthen the heart beat. After intial recovery, patients are soon up on their feet and mobilised.
Blood vessels that are blocked by clots may be dilated, opened and stretched using a ‘balloon’ which is simply inflated inside the affected vessel. This is known as angioplasty, and is a popular effective treatment. If several of the hearts blood vessels show narrowing, then these can by passed using veins removed from the legs and transplanted into the heart to carry blood past the narrowed diseased vessels. This is known as coronary artery by pass grafting (CABG).
The 3 F’s for a healthy heart:
1. Stop the Fags
2. Reduce your Fat
3. Get Fit!
But remember, before embarking on any new exercise routine, check with your doctor. You may be more unfit than you imagined!