Myocardial infarction (MI) or heart attack is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women. MI occurs when the coronary arteries (blood vessels that supply blood to the heart) get narrowed or blocked. This blockage deprives the heart of blood and oxygen causing damage to the heart muscle.
Causes and risks
Atherosclerosis is the most common cause for the narrowing of the arteries. It is a condition in which fatty material called plaque builds up in the walls of your coronary arteries. The plaque can rupture exposing the fatty material within the plaque. This process promotes accumulation of platelets (clotting component of blood) at the site which can form blood clots that may further narrow the arteries and block the flow of blood.
Risk factors for heart attack that can be controlled include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, obesity, high blood sugar, physical inactivity, and stress. Uncontrollable risk factors are not under your control and include older age, family history of early heart disease, pre-existing heart disease and post-menopausal symptoms.
The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain, which usually lasts for more than 20 minutes and is characterised by:
Other symptoms include anxiety, fainting, coughing, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, light-headedness, dizziness, and heavy sweating. Heart attack needs immediate medical care, so identifying the symptoms is of utmost importance.
Heart attack is diagnosed based on your signs and symptoms, medical and family histories, and other diagnostic tests such as:
Heart attack is a medical emergency which requires immediate first aid to increase the chances of recovery and lessen damage to the heart muscle. First aid treatment includes the following:
Once a heart attack is confirmed by medical personnel, treatments to restore blood flow to the heart are started immediately. Medicines may be given to dissolve blood clots, decrease the workload on the heart and thin the blood to prevent the formation of blood clots in the arteries. Other medical procedures may be conducted:
Certain life style modifications can help you to lower your risk for developing heart disease and heart attack: