Heart diseases are one of the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 17.3 million deaths globally. CAD alone is responsible for killing 380,000 people annually. Nearly 12 million people have already been diagnosed with heart disease and are seeing a physician on regular basis and they are just the tip of the iceberg, there are millions more who are yet to be diagnosed.
So, when I say it is essential for us to know some hard facts about heart attack which kind of is an emergency I am not overreaching.
Heart attack may be an emergency but if you are careful enough if you recognize it sooner than there is a good chance that it may not be fatal.
How does a Heart Attack Occur?
So I said it is an emergency, how so? Well, you may be walking around in the park or sitting comfortably at your home and you might develop sudden stabbing pain in chest radiating down to your left hand, You will start perspiring, develop anxiety, palpitation. You may faint.
Sometimes the chest pain feels like some discomfort or tightness in the chest with certain dizziness and light-head – this is MI or in common tongue heart attack.
This is it, one second you are a healthy little champ and next you are in the hospital wondering if you are fine or not… is it your heart or something else. But don’t worry, stress itself is a precipitating factor for heart attack so let the doctors do their job.
Its how you shape your lifestyle before and after the heart attack that matters. For that, you must know what heart attack is and what are different risk factors associated with it and what to do when you suspect someone is having a heart attack.
What is a Heart Attack?
In simpler terms, it’s your heart not getting enough oxygen to survive or to pump blood efficiently. It is exhausted. You know how we guys need the energy to get up every morning and go off to work and then when we are back we need more food. Even in between work, we do take occasional snacks. Same goes for our heart, its snack is oxygen and it can’t go on without it.
The heart needs a constant supply of oxygen via coronary arteries. Coronary arteries are the ones bringing oxygen from our lungs to our heart muscles. There are two major coronary arteries: right and left coronary artery and in the major part of the population, right CA supplies a major part of oxygen to our heart. So, when this blood supply has hampered a part of heart muscle dies – infarct- and this is what causes that acute pain in a heart attack.
Now marvel is this, that even though a specified part of our heart is supplied by a specific blood vessel, this blood vessel is connected at different points to other vessels(anastomosis) so that if the specific vessel is somehow gets compromised our heart can still get its oxygen from other vessels. Didn’t get it? Let me make it simpler.
Remember how sometimes we want to reach office on time but apparently, the whole world is against us and we get stuck in traffic or there is roadblock ahead of us so what do we do? We go a different route. These connections are a different route for our heart to get oxygen. So I am saying we are not doomed if we eat a little cheese or snacks, but its excess will surely be harmful to us.
Heart Attack Causes
In a heart attack these blood vessels/coronary arteries get road blocked by – well there are a few reasons. As you might have learned by now that Heart attack is basically roadblock of coronary arteries the ones which supply blood to heart muscles. So, how does this happens: blockage can be due to a thrombus or an embolism or sudden arterial spasm.
Although atherosclerosis is known to narrow arterial lumen by thickening arterial wall, it can not be considered a cause for heart attack as it’s a chronic condition and is often compensated by the muscular arterial wall. It is more of a silent disease except for being responsible for thrombus sometimes even though many times or should I say most of the times this thrombus is innocent and does not result in a Heart attack.
Thrombus is basically clotting of blood inside the body and is no different from what we see outside of the body. Thrombus develops following an injury to the blood vessel or exposure of the thrombogenic material to clotting factors.
This exposure happens following plaque rupture in the atherosclerotic coronary artery which leads to thrombus formation by the accumulation of fibrin platelets and various clotting factor you don’t need to know about. But what you do need to know is that though this thrombus gets dissolved in circulation most of the time, rarely it is the cause of the chest pain and anxiety you have been having. It blocks coronary circulation leading to myocardial infarction.
Now embolus is thrombus but detached from its point of origin, like a teenager who just won’t stay at home. It may go in the brain and result in a stroke or may result in pulmonary embolism in lungs or may cause the heart attack if it reaches coronary vessels.
Arterial spasm is a little different from the causes mentioned above. While thrombus and embolism are associated with the atherosclerotic vessel, spasm occurs in a relatively healthy vessel. It’s constriction of the muscular layer of an artery leading to narrowing and blockage of the coronary artery.
Chest pain often happens at rest and in the night, the person may lose consciousness. What is the reason behind these spasms? Well, Cocaine use and alcohol are often seen associated factors behind these spasms but none of them has been established as a cause of heart attack. So yeah , we are a little behind in it.
What are the risk factors of Heart Attack?
Now, all that we discussed above is interesting but not practical and not at all useful for you guys. The cause, pathology, symptoms – well symptoms can be useful but the real deal is risk factors. What are the risks which make us prone to heart attack and what to do about them? Well, the list goes on but I will try to sum it up in the best way I can.
The most important factor is age and sex. In males, risk for heart attack is significantly higher after the golden age of 45 compared to younger generations, there is nothing you can do about it but before you reach 45 there are certain risk factors of heart attack which you can and should avoid like diabetes, smoking, alcohol use, munching junk food etc.
Hypercholesterolemia and diabetes go hand in hand. If you are diabetic you are twice as likely to get a heart attack than a non-diabetic person. Especially type 2 diabetes seen in older people, cholesterol levels are unusually higher in type 2 DM patients.
Raised cholesterol levels are also seen in some dyslipidemias, Inherited disorders – you have genetics to blame for that. But the point is once you have enough bad cholesterol in your blood i.e. LDL and all non-HDL cholesterol, you are not healthy. Atherosclerosis, yes the one we discussed above result due to this bad cholesterol. Even in its initial stages atherosclerosis is referred as fatty streak. So yes, its bad.
What can you do about this, well for starters keep your sugar in check, don’t miss doctor’s appointment and strictly follow your diabetic diet. Try not to hold onto your sedentary lifestyle. sedentary lifestyle is one where you keep on munching all junk food while sitting in front of tv, never going out, being lazy.
So, please avoid that for you children’s sake. It’s only making you obese : another important risk factor for heart attack, no need to tell you it’s also because of increased cholesterol levels. So, Get out, take a walk, do some exercise, make yourself healthy.
Hypertension itself is the most important risk factor for heart attack. How so? Well, hypertension or in common term high blood pressure damages arterial wall, scars them. And and what do we know about thrombus? It develops where there is a damaged blood vessel, exposed collagen fibre etc.
In a way hypertension increases the risk of heart attack by ten folds. keep yourself calm, don’t stress yourself out, keep checking your blood pressure daily. Make it a routine and of course walk at least for 30 minutes daily. 30 minutes a day might just keeps you healthier for 30 more years.
Now, I am going to bore you with some stats because I think you guys don’t believe me when I say smoking, alcoholism and cocaine are also one of the major risk factors for heart attack. Every one out of five deaths is because of smoking.
Smoking increases risk of coronary artery disease by 2 to 4 times. It also damages blood vessel increasing the risk of thrombus formation. It itself has an additive effect to hypertension.
Cocaine also raises blood pressure, also known to be associated with arterial spasm. So, both of these are bad guys. Alcohol is no saint, but I think you already know that.
Alcohol affects the heart by raising triglycerides in the bloodstream and thereby increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and indirectly of a heart attack.
So, these are the causes of heart attack that you must know. I have also told you about heart attack symptoms so that you can identify it within time and take appropriate actions. If you have any queries then please let me know through comments.
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