Heart Attacks are a result of cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death globally. There were an estimated 17.5 million deaths globally in 2012 from cardiovascular disease, representing 31% of all deaths. 7.4 million of these were as a result of coronary heart disease (the type that causes heart attacks). As a result many people fear them. It is also not unusual to know people who have suffered a heart attack and live with the lingering concerns over the health, or to yourself be living post heart attack.
A heart attack itself is a severe emergency and must be responded to immediately. When they occur the heart is starved of its supply of blood as a result of the coronary artery becoming suddenly blocked by a blood clot. Medically this is known as Myocardial Infarction (MI), and can seriously damage the heart muscle.
Although a heart attack can ultimately lead to a cardiac arrest it should be noted that they are distinctly different things. In cardiac arrest the individual will be unconscious and won’t be breathing normally.
Heart attacks usually happen as a result of significant Coronary Heart Disease. Coronary Heart Disease is when the coronary arteries get clogged up, or furred up, with deposits of cholesterol known as plaques. Immediately before a heart attack occurs, one of these deposits will rupture which in turn creates the blood clot, blocking the supply of blood to the heart.
In the acute situation of a heart attack the symptoms include: chest pain (ranging from mild to severe) that may radiate towards the jaw, arm, neck and back; shortness of breath and difficulty breathing; dizziness, light-headedness, or weakness; anxiety; sweating; and nausea.
Coronary Heart Disease itself does not always carry symptoms. Individuals may experience periodic chest pain known as Angina, which can often be mistaken for indigestion.
Coronary Heart Disease and Heart Attacks can largely be prevented through lifestyle management. The risks behind heart attacks include:
Smoking: Smokers are at a noticeably increased risk of developing Coronary Heart Disease and thus suffering a heart attack.
Diet: High fat, and high sugar, diets are known to be leading causes in Coronary Heart Disease.
Weight & Obesity: People with a raised BMI, who are particularly overweight, will be at increased risk of heart attack. Additionally, those who are extremely underweight, for example active sufferers of Anorexia Nervosa, can also be at risk.
Physical Activity: Physical activity is known to help reduce an individual’s risk of developing Coronary Heart Disease and heart attack.
Alcohol Consumption: Increased alcohol consumption has been associated with heart disease.
Diabetes: Those with diabetes are known to have an increased risk of suffering from Coronary Heart Disease and Heart Attack.
High Cholesterol: One of the biggest indicators of an individual’s propensity for going on to suffer a heart attack is their cholesterol level, which can be easily tested via a blood test.
Hypertension: Those suffering with the chronic condition of hypertension (high blood pressure) are at increased risk of heart attack.
Gender: Men more frequently suffer heart attacks than their female counterparts.
Age: Heart attacks are more frequent in those aged over 45 years.
Heart Attack Management can be broken down in to two distinct areas: what happens immediately following a heart attack and then rehabilitation and future prevention.
In the immediate instance, the treatment will depend on several different factors, especially the amount of damage to the heart muscle. Some individuals will recover very quickly in a matter of a few weeks, whilst others may take several months. Heart attacks vary in their intensity and resulting damage.
Emergency care can involve immediate treatment with aspirin. However once the heart attack sufferer is hospitalised then treatment will either be given via medication intent on dissolving the blood clot that is causing the blockage of blood supply to the heart, or via surgery to help to restore the blood flow and restore the heart system.
Complications of a heart attack include Arrhythmia (an abnormal heart beat), Cardiogenic Shocks and Heart Rupture – these will all be treated as part of the initial emergency care.
Once the emergency heart attack situation has passed, then the management of Coronary Heart Disease and heart attack moves on to reducing the risk of another heart attack. Individuals who have had a heart attack are at increased risk of another in the future, most notably in the month immediately after the first heart attack.
The key area for change is lifestyle: Changes can be made to an individual’s risk factors by making lifestyle changes such as weight loss, dietary changes, and smoking cessation. Additionally, Coronary Heart Disease sufferers may be given medications, such as statins, designed to lower the cholesterol level in the arteries – the main cause of heart attacks. Additionally, management must include Cardiac Rehabilitation, a process of restoring and increasing physical fitness.
Suffering a heart attack can be a wake-up call for many individuals to go on and make the lifestyle changes needed to go on and live a healthier life with a reduced risk of heart attack in the future.
At WizeLife we believe in bringing health information, tailored specifically to you, to your inbox via a simple, easy, online assessment. Compiled by medical experts using a plethora of the most up to date medical studies, we can assess your risk factors for chronic diseases such as Coronary Heart Disease and the risk of suffering a Heart Attack. However, knowledge is power, and so we go beyond this. We actively give you information and advice based on your known health risks compared to a perfectly healthy virtual patient, and advise you on what you can do to target elevated risks and reduce them in line with an ideal health basis, making you healthier and less at-risk. For tips on managing and reducing the risks associated with Heart Attack, take our 7-minute test now.