What is a Heart Attack?
The term myocardial infarction, or heart attack, means a blocked artery has caused permanent damage to a part of the heart below the blockage, due to a lack of blood and oxygen. The following are causes of heart attacks:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD): This is the disease process of fatty deposits building up with in an artery.
- Thrombus (blood clot): A thrombus occurs when blood cells clump together and stick to fatty deposits inside arteries.
- Coronary artery spasm: A spasm occurs when a coronary artery temporarily contracts. The cause is often unknown.
Any of the above problems can block an artery causing less blood and oxygen get to the heart. The heart muscle begins changing within minutes of blood and oxygen deprivation. Damage to the heart muscle can occur very quickly. It is very important to get help as soon as you have any warning signs of a heart attack.
The symptoms of a heart attack do not go away with rest and nitroglycerin. The pain can range from mild to severe, and can last more than 20 minutes. It may be steady or come and go. The following can be symptoms or warning signs of a heart attack:
- Heavy pressure or burning in the chest, back, neck, jaw, or shoulders
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling of fullness or indigestion
- Sweating (may be cold/clammy)
- Dizziness, weakness, or fainting
- Vague feeling of uneasiness or doom
- Pale or gray looking skin
If you experience any of these heart attack symptoms and they are not relieved with rest or nitroglycerin, call 911.
After a Heart Attack
Early heart attack treatment is important. After a heart attack, medications can be given to dissolve blood clots that may have formed in an artery. These medications are called thrombolytics, or clot buster medications. These medications must be given within a few hours of a heart attack.
Other medications may be given to improve blood flow to your heart, treat irregular heart rhythms, or help your heart pump better. If your doctor prescribes medication for you, always know the name of your medication and its purpose. Keep a list of your medications with you. Never stop taking your medication or change the amount of medication without your doctor’s approval.
Scar tissue will soon form over the damaged area of your heart. New, smaller blood vessels will begin to grow from the original artery and will supply blood to the area surrounding the damaged heart muscle. Healing takes place over several weeks. Sometimes a procedure, such as coronary angioplasty, is needed to restore blood flow to the heart.
For more information about the heart services available through the Firelands Heart Center, contact us today.