A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs if one or more of the arteries in the heart is/are blocked, causing a blood clot to form.
There are various symptoms of heart attacks but the most common and obvious one is chest pain, also called angina. However, chest pain is not always present at the time of a heart attack. Other symptoms such as: nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and pain spreading to the shoulders, back, and arms, can also be symptoms of a heart attack. All of these symptoms do not have to be present when the heart attack takes place.
A heart attack is caused by the lack of blood supply, which is usually caused by a blocked artery. The artery block is usually caused by plaque, which is buildup formed by fat deposits, cholesterol, calcium, and other similar substances, a process called atherosclerosis. The plaque then eventually bursts and the blood clot is formed, causing the blood supply, oxygen, and nutrients to stop from reaching the heart muscle, known as the myocardium.
If or when the supply of blood is blocked for more than a few minutes, the muscles die, causing irreversible injury to the heart or even death. Therefore, it is extremely important to notice and act upon the symptoms of heart attack.
Heart attacks can be diagnosed by an EKG or ECG (electrocardiogram). This test is done by attaching electrodes (small pads) to the chest, legs, or arms that are attached to a machine that interprets the electrical impulses and signals that control heart rhythm. The results are checked for abnormalities and evaluated by doctors. This test identifies muscle damage, and other heart injuries or problems.
Along with the EKG, blood samples are taken to measure the damage of the heart muscles. Elevated cardiac enzymes indicate muscle damage.
A Coronary Angiography may also be done. This is when a catheter is entered into an artery to view the blocked artery in an x-ray.
Immediate treatment when a heart attack occurs is usually medicine such as aspirin to help blood flow in the heart and hopefully unclog the artery. Other medicines can be injected into the body as well as taken from the mouth.
If it’s absolutely necessary, a bypass surgery might be performed.
Once the heart attack is over and the patient is sent home, he/she is given medications to help the blood flow and certain medications to lower cholesterol. There are several other things the patient needs to do after the heart attack, such as cut down on the cholesterol, fat, and other non-healthy foods.