What is a Heart Attack? Edit

A heart attack is a permanent damage to the heart muscle. It occurs when the oxygen-rich blood flows to a section of the heart muscle and suddenly becomes blocked then the heart cannot get oxygen. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle will begin to die.  Heart attacks most often occur as a result of coronary heart disease. This disease is caused when a waxy substance, known as plaque, builds up inside the coronary arteries. When the plaque builds up over a period of time, it can rupture inside of that artery. The result in this is that a blood clot will begin to form on the surface of the plaque. If this blood clot gets large enough, then it may completely block blood flow through the coronary artery. A heart attack happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die.

Heart attack
Getty rm illustration of heart attack

How does a Heart Attack Affect the Circulatory System? Edit

Heart attack may not affect circulation at all. Or it may cause shock, or slower heart failure. It can stop circulation and cause death. It all depends on the size and location of the heart attack. If the heart attack is large it could become a big concern, but if it is small it may not do any damage to the system.

Signs and Symptoms Edit

Some signs and symptoms of a heart attack include the following:

  • Discomfort, pressure and/or pain in the chest area, upper torso, neck, jaw and/or arm
  • Strain on digestive system (which may feel like fullness, indigestion, choking feeling, and/or heartburn)
  • Flu-like symptoms (sweating, nausea, vomiting, and/or dizziness)
  • Strain on the respiratory system (which may feel like weakness, anxiety, and/or a shortness of breath)
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats

Click to see more information on heart disease symptoms.

Diagnosis Edit

  • ECG
    • ECG can be used as a test to diagnose heart attack. This test can determine how much damage the heart attack has strained the muscle tissues in the heart. 
  • Blood Tests
    • Blood can be drawn to test blood enzyme levels. When heart muscle cells are damaged, enzymes are released in to the bloodstream. By

measuring the levels, it can be determined if there was damage or not.

  • Echocardiography
    • Echocardiography measures whether or not the heart is pumping at its normal rates. This is tested after and during heart attacks. Also an echo sound can determine whether any part of the heart is damaged. 
    • These are how to diagnose the heart attack by symptom

-          Chest discomfort (uncomfortable chest pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness)                Sweating            

-          Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back)

-          Shortness of breath

-          Sweating

-          Nausea

Treatment Edit

Some immediate treatment needs to occur after heart attack;

  • Take Aspirin to prevent further blood clotting
  • Nitroglycerin to reduce your heart’s workload and improve blood flow through the coronary arteries
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Treatment for chest pain

Once diagnosis is confirmed, doctors begin to restore blood flow throughout arteries. Ideally, medicine should be given as soon as possible.

Other non-immediate treatment includes;

  • Medicine
    • ACE inhibitors. ACE inhibitors lower blood pressure and reduce strain on your heart. They also help slow down further weakening of the heart muscle.
    • Anticlotting medicines. Anticlotting medicines stop platelets from clumping together and forming unwanted blood clots. Examples of anticlotting medicines include aspirin and clopidogrel.
    • Anticoagulants. Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, prevent blood clots from forming in your arteries. These medicines also keep existing clots from getting larger.
    • Beta blockers. Beta blockers decrease your heart’s workload. These medicines also are used to relieve chest pain and discomfort and to help prevent another heart attack. Beta blockers also are used to treat arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).
    • Statin medicines. Statins control or lower your blood cholesterol. By lowering your blood cholesterol level, you can decrease your chance of having another heart attack or stroke.
  • Medical procedures
    • Coronary artery bypass grafting also may be used to treat a heart attack. During this, a surgeon or doctor will remove a healthy artery. This artery will be connected to a blocked section of the coronary artery, allowing a new passage way for blood flow.
  • Heart healthy life-style changes
    • Manage stress levels
    • Heart healthy eating
    • Physical activity
    • Maintaining healthy weight
    • Quit any type of smoking
  • Eventual Cardiac rehabilitation