Introduction to Heart Attack
A heart attack is caused by a blood clot that prevents the flow of blood to your heart muscle (myocardium).
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack is also known as a myocardial infarction. It is caused by a blood clot that prevents the flow of blood to your heart muscle (myocardium). Without this blood supply the myocardium has an inadequate supply of oxygen and therefore causes damage to the muscle. Myocardial infarction is common in the UK, most often occurring in those over 50. It can occur in those known to have heart disease or it can happen out of the blue in people with no previous heart disease symptoms.
What causes a Heart Attack?
The most common cause of a myocardial infarction is a blood clot in one of the arteries that supply the heart muscle (coronary arteries). Risk factors for development of blood clots in coronary arteries include: smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight, having a high cholesterol, being physically inactive, having a diet high in fat, diabetes, having a family history of heart disease and certain ethnic groups such as British Asians.
What are the symptoms of a Heart Attack?
The most common symptom is severe chest pain, often feeling like a heavy pressure on your chest. This pain may travel down your left arm or up into your jaw. You might also sweat, feel nauseas or feel faint. This pain is usually more severe and has a longer duration then the pain experienced in angina. In some people a myocardial infarction can only cause mild discomfort or no pain at all. Some individuals die suddenly if a large part of their heart muscle is affected.
How is a Heart Attack treated?
Treatment of myocardial infarction includes a number of therapies. Aspirin to reduce the stickiness of platelets that have formed the clot. Other antiplatelet medication may be given to further thin the blood. Heparin injection will prevent further blood clots forming. Pain relief such as morphine.
There are two methods to restore blood flow in the blocked coronary artery. These treatments will save more of the heart muscle from dying if they are given quickly after the onset of the myocardial infarction: Emergency angioplasty is the best treatment available. This procedure involves a tiny wire is passed into the arteries of the heart via a large artery in the groin or the arm. A balloon on the end of the wire is blown up inside the blocked part of the artery to open it up. A stent can be put into the widened artery to help keep it open. The alternative to emergency angioplasty is an injection of clot busting medicine called streptokinase.