Heart Attack

Heart attack is the death of a segment of heart muscle caused by the loss of blood supply. The blood supply is usually lost because a coronary artery, one that supplies blood to the heart muscle, has a blood clot, a blockage (coronary thrombosis). If some of the heart muscle dies, the patient experiences chest pain and electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue.

Another name for a heart attack is myocardial infarction, cardiac infarction and coronary thrombosis (Infarction = the process whereby an area of dead tissue is caused by a loss of blood supply). Blood supply to the heart can also be undermined if the artery suddenly narrows, as in a spasm.

Blood supply to the heart can also be undermined if the artery suddenly narrows, as in a spasm.

According to the Heart Attack

1. During a heart attack the heart muscle that loses its blood supply starts to suffer injury.
2.How much damage occurs depends on the size of the area that is supplied by the blocked artery, as well as the lapse in time between injury and treatment.
3. The damaged heart muscle heals by forming scar tissue. The healing process may take several weeks.
4. Despite severe injury to a part of the heart, the rest of the organ carries on working.
5. However, as part of the heart has been damaged, it will probably be weaker and will not pump as much blood as it used to.
6. With the right treatment and lifestyle changes, further damage can be prevented or limited.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Age - the largest risk factor. When a man is over 45 years, and a woman is over 55 years of age, their risk of having a heart attack starts to rise significantly. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that the visible physical signs of aging, such as the accumulation of fatty deposits on the eyelids and baldness are associated with a higher risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack.

Senior researcher, Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, said "The visible signs of aging reflect physiologic or biological age, not chronological age, and are independent of chronological age."

The researchers found that a receding hairline, baldness, earlobe crease and xanthelasmata (fatty deposits around the eyelids) increased heart attack risk by 57% and ischemic heart disease by 39%.

They presented their findings at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012 in Los Angeles.

Angina - angina is an illness where not enough oxygen is reaching the patient's heart. This raises the risk of a heart attack. In some cases a diagnosis of angina was wrong - it could have been a mild heart attack instead. The main difference between a heart attack and angina is that the patient with angina will feel better about 15 to 30 minutes after taking medication, while the heart attack patient won't.

Blood cholesterol levels - if a person's blood cholesterol levels are high, he/she runs a higher risk of developing blood clots in the arteries. Blood clots can block the supply of blood to the heart muscle, causing a heart attack.

How is a heart attack diagnosed?

Any doctor, nurse, or health care professional, will send a patient straight to hospital if he/she suspects the person may have a heart attack. In hospital several tests may be done:

ECG (Electrocardiograph)

An ECG is a medical device that monitors the electrical activity of the heart muscles. Our hearts produce a small electric signal at every beat. A heart specialist (cardiologist) can use this device to see how well the heart is functioning, whether there is any damage to the heart muscle, or abnormalities with the heart rhythm. A doctor can tell, when checking the data coming from the ECG, whether the patient has had a heart attack recently, or even earlier.

Cardiac enzyme tests

When a person has a heart attack some enzymes make their way into the bloodstream. A blood test can detect these enzymes. Usually, enzyme blood levels are checked regularly over a few days.

Chest x-ray

This can be useful to see if the heart has any swelling.

What are the treatments for a heart attack?

The faster the heart attack patient can be treated, the more successful his/her treatment will be. These days, the majority of heart attacks can be treated effectively. It is crucial to remember that the patient's survival depends largely on how quickly he can be taken to hospital.

Treatment during a heart attack

1. CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation)

Some heart attack patients stop breathing; they do not move or respond when spoken to or touched, they may also be coughing. If this is the case CPR should be started straight away. This involves:

Manual chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth
30 chest compressions to the heart followed by two mouth-to-mouth resuscitation breaths (mouth-to-mouth)

Defibrillator
This is a CPS medical device. It sends electric shocks across the patient's chest - the aim is to use electricity to shock the heart back into proper activity.

2. 300mg of Aspirin

A 300mg dose of aspirin is often given to patients during a heart attack. Aspirin will help stop the clot in the artery from growing.

3. Thrombolytics

These dissolve the blood clots. These include alteplase and streptokinase. They should be injected into the patient as soon as possible. If the blood supply to the muscle can be restored soon enough, much of the affected heart muscle will survive.

4. Painkillers

Morphine is sometimes injected into the patient to control the pain and discomfort. Experts say this also reducesanxiety.