What Are The Risk Factors For Heart Attack
Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack. These are called risk factors. About half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking.2
Some risk factors cannot be controlled, such as your age or family history. But you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control.
Learn more about risk factors for heart disease and heart attack.
What Can I Expect If I Have A Silent Heart Attack
Everyones experience is a bit different based on how much their heart attack hurt their heart, but most people can get back to doing regular things little by little and have active lives.
Some people can get abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure, which can be serious. People who wait too long to get help for a heart attack run the risk of severe damage to their hearts and may not survive if they dont get help soon enough.
Causes Of A Silent Heart Attack In Women
A silent heart attack happens when the flow of blood is blocked in the coronary arteries by a build up of plaque. Studies differ, but some suggest that silent heart attacks are more common in women than in men.
Ekery points out that women and their physicians may also be more likely to chalk up symptoms of a silent heart attack to anxiety and dismiss them.
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What Increases Your Risk
- Family history of early CAD.
- Age. The risk increases in men after age 45 and in women after age 55.
What Is A Silent Heart Attack
A heart attack is called silent when it has no symptoms, mild symptoms or symptoms people dont connect to a heart attack. Also known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack means your heart isnt getting oxygen. This injures your heart. Usually, a blood clot causes a heart attack by keeping blood from flowing through one of your coronary arteries. Less often, a coronary artery spasm can cut off your blood flow.
Heart attacks can happen when youre asleep or awake. They can happen when:
- You just went through something very physically or emotionally stressful.
- You quickly become more physically active.
- Youre physically active outside in the cold.
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What To Do If You Or Someone Else May Be Having A Heart Attack
- Don’t ignore or attempt to tough out the symptoms of a heart attack for more than five minutes. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have a neighbor or a friend drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort, and realize that it places you and others at risk when you drive under these circumstances.
- Chew and swallow an aspirin, unless you are allergic to aspirin or have been told by your doctor never to take aspirin. But seek emergency help first, such as calling 911.
- Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed. If you think you’re having a heart attack and your doctor has previously prescribed nitroglycerin for you, take it as directed. Do not take anyone else’s nitroglycerin, because that could put you in more danger.
- Begin CPR if the person is unconscious. If you’re with a person who might be having a heart attack and he or she is unconscious, tell the 911 dispatcher or another emergency medical specialist. You may be advised to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation . If you haven’t received CPR training, doctors recommend skipping mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing and performing only chest compressions . The dispatcher can instruct you in the proper procedures until help arrives.
- If an automated external defibrillator is available and the person is unconscious, begin CPR while the device is retrieved and set up. Attach the device and follow instructions that will be provided by the AED after it has evaluated the person’s condition.
Manage Stress And Get Help For Depression
- Manage stress. Stress can hurt your heart. Keep stress low by talking about your problems and feelings, rather than keeping your feelings hidden. Try different ways to reduce stress, such as exercise, deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
- Get help for depression. Getting treatment for depression can help you stay healthy.
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What Can I Do To Recover After A Heart Attack
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If youve had a heart attack, your heart may be damaged. This could affect your hearts rhythm and its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. You may also be at risk for another heart attack or conditions such as stroke, kidney disorders, and peripheral arterial disease .
You can lower your chances of having future health problems following a heart attack with these steps:
- Physical activityTalk with your health care team about the things you do each day in your life and work. Your doctor may want you to limit work, travel, or sexual activity for some time after a heart attack.
- Lifestyle changesEating a healthier diet, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, and managing stressin addition to taking prescribed medicinescan help improve your heart health and quality of life. Ask your health care team about attending a program called cardiac rehabilitation to help you make these lifestyle changes.
- Cardiac rehabilitationCardiac rehabilitation is an important program for anyone recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart problem that required surgery or medical care. Cardiac rehab is a supervised program that includes
- Physical activity
- Education about healthy living, including healthy eating, taking medicine as prescribed, and ways to help you quit smoking
- Counseling to find ways to relieve stress and improve mental health
What To Expect When You Arrive
Emergency rooms treat the most serious illnesses first. If you arrive with symptoms of a heart attack, theyâll see you quickly. Doctors will work to confirm your diagnosis, relieve your symptoms, and treat the problem. Depending upon your symptoms, you may have one or more of the following:
- Medical history
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How Is Heart Attack Diagnosed
You may need several tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.
- Electrocardiogram. This test records the electrical activity of your heart. It can help diagnose heart rhythm problems. It can also find damage from a decrease in blood flow.
- Blood tests.When blood flow decreases, special proteins leak into the blood system. A blood test can detect these proteins. Your doctor will want to test your blood several times during the first 24 to 48 hours after yours symptoms start.
Other tests your doctor may want you to have include:
- Echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart. The pictures show how well your heart is pumping. It can show if there are problems with your heart valves.
- Chest X-ray.This looks at the size and shape of your heart. It can show if there is any fluid in your lungs.
- Nuclear imaging.This test injects a tiny radioactive substance into your blood. This substance travels to your heart to create pictures of it. It shows how well your heart is pumping. The radioactive substance is safe and leaves your body after the test is finished.
- Coronary angiography. This test is sometimes called cardiac catheterization. It involves inserting a long tube into a blood vessel. The tube is guided to the heart or arteries that carry blood to the heart. A substance is injected into the tube that makes it visible by X-ray. It allows your doctor to see where the blockage that caused the decrease in blood flow to your heart is located.
Whats The Difference Between A Heart Attack And A Cardiac Arrest
A heart attack is a sudden interruption to the blood supply to part of the heart muscle. Its likely to cause chest pain and permanent damage to the heart. The heart is still sending blood around the body, and the person remains conscious and is still breathing.
A cardiac arrest happens when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body. Someone whos having a cardiac arrest will suddenly lose consciousness and will stop breathing – or stop breathing normally. Unless immediately treated by cardiopulmonary resuscitation , this always leads to death within minutes.
A person having a heart attack is at high risk of experiencing a cardiac arrest.
Both a heart attack and a cardiac arrest are life-threatening medical emergencies and require immediate medical help.
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Control Cholesterol And Blood Pressure
To reduce your risk of a heart attack, you will need to control your cholesterol and manage your blood pressure. Quitting smoking, changing the way you eat, and getting more exercise can help. But if these things don’t work, you may also need to take medicines.
Just Like The Name Implies A Silent Heart Attack Is A Heart Attack That Has Either:
- no symptoms,
- minimal symptoms or
- unrecognized symptoms, says Deborah Ekery, M.D., a clinical cardiologist at Heart Hospital of Austin and with Austin Heart in Austin, TX.
But it is like any other heart attack where blood flow to a section of the heart is temporarily blocked and can cause scarring and damage to the heart muscle.
Ekery regularly sees patients who come in complaining of fatigue and problems related to heart disease, and discovers, through an MRI or EKG, that the person had actually suffered a heart attack weeks or months ago, without ever realizing it.
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Ake In Physical Activity
Being physically active will also help to prevent a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, adults should try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week when possible.
Adults who are already active can increase their activity levels to give themselves even better prevention against heart attacks.
Here’s A Rundown Of The Likely Chain Of Events After You Call 911
For a suspected heart attack, paramedics can often perform initial testing in the ambulance while the patient is en route to the hospital. Image: Thinkstock
Every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack. If one day that someone is you or a loved one, it may be helpful to know what’s likely to happen, both en route to the hospital and after you arrive.
For starters, always call 911 to be transported via ambulance rather than going by car. Contrary to what you might assume, speed isn’t the only rationale. “If you’re having a heart attack, there are two reasons why you want to be in an ambulance,” says Dr. Joshua Kosowsky, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School. One is that in the unlikely event of cardiac arrest, the ambulance has the equipment and trained personnel to restart your heart. Cardiac arrest, which results from an electrical malfunction that stops the heart’s pumping ability, is fatal without prompt treatment. However, most heart attacks do not cause cardiac arrest, Dr. Kosowsky stresses. “It’s rare, but it’s certainly not a risk you want to take while you’re driving or riding in a car.”
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What Is Angina And Why Is Unstable Angina A Concern
Angina is a symptom of coronary artery disease. Angina occurs when there is not enough blood flow to the heart. Angina can be dangerous. So it is important to pay attention to your symptoms, know what is typical for you, learn how to control it, and know when to call for help.
Symptoms of angina include chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest. Some people feel pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms.
There are two types of angina:
- Stable angina means that you can usually predict when your symptoms will happen. You probably know what things cause your angina. For example, you know how much activity usually causes your angina. You also know how to relieve your symptoms with rest or nitroglycerin.
- Unstable angina means that your symptoms have changed from your typical pattern of stable angina. Your symptoms do not happen at a predictable time. For example, you may feel angina when you are resting. Your symptoms may not go away with rest or nitroglycerin.
Unstable angina is an emergency. It may mean that you are having a heart attack.
Have Someone Call An Ambulance
If others are around, tell them to stay with you until emergency medical services workers arrive. Calling 911 is usually the fastest way to get emergency care, as opposed to asking someone to drive you to a hospital in their car. EMS workers are trained to revive people experiencing heart attacks and can also transport you to the hospital for rapid care.
If youre in a public space such as a store, school, library, or workplace, theres a good chance theres a defibrillator on hand.
A defibrillator is the kind of device EMS workers use to revive people who are experiencing heart attacks. If youre still conscious at the onset of your heart attack, instruct someone nearby to find the closest defibrillator. Defibrillators come with easy-to-use instructions, so its possible for a non-EMS worker to revive you if the heart attack strikes.
Before The Ambulance Arrives
If you can, before the ambulance arrives, you can help the paramedics by doing the following:
- if youre outside, stay with the patient until help arrives
- phone 999 again if the patients condition worsens
- phone 999 again if your location changes
- if youre phoning from home or work, ask someone to open the doors and tell ambulance staff where they’re needed
- shut any family pets away
- if you can, write down the patients GP details and collect any medication theyre taking
- tell the paramedics if the patient has any allergies
- tell the paramedics if the patient has taken an aspirin
- stay calm – Scottish Ambulance Service are there to help you
Many people survive heart attacks and make a good recovery. Your heart is a tough muscle. Stress, shocks or surprises dont cause heart attacks.
Blood Tests And Beyond
But not all heart attacks show up on the first ECG. So even if it looks normal, you’re still not out of the woods, says Dr. Kosowsky. The next step is an evaluation by a doctor or other clinician, who will ask about your medical history and details about the location, duration, and intensity of your symptoms. You’ll also have a blood test to measure troponin, a protein that rises in response to heart muscle damage. This blood test is very sensitive. But keep in mind that elevated levels don’t always show up right away. That’s why doctors sometimes have people stay for several hours to get a follow-up troponin measurement.
Other possible tests include a chest x-ray to look for alternative causes of chest discomfort, such as pneumonia or heart failure. A doctor also might give you a trial of medication to see whether it relieves your symptoms, and additional ECGs may be performed over time.
Often, if several troponin tests come back normal, the doctor may want to check your risk of a future heart attack with an exercise stress test. This test can reveal how your heart responds to the demands of increased blood flow needed during exercise. During a standard exercise test, you walk on a treadmill at progressively faster speeds, while trained staff monitors your heart’s electrical activity, your heart rate, and your blood pressure.
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Breaking Out In A Cold Sweat
Another common symptom is finding yourself breaking out in a cold sweat. The reason behind this symptom is that when you have clogged arteries, your heart requires more effort to pump blood, and sweating keeps your bodys temperature down during this extra effort.
For women, this means night sweats may not just be the result of menopause. They might also be a sign of heart problems.
If you experience any of these symptoms, make sure to consult your physician. Dont wait until it becomes urgent.
Life After A Heart Attack
Coming home after a heart attack may be unsettling. Your hospital stay may have seemed too short. You may be nervous about being home without doctors and nurses after being so closely watched in the hospital.
But you have had tests that tell your doctor that it is safe for you to return home. Now that you’re home, you can take steps to live a healthy lifestyle to reduce the chance of having another heart attack.
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What Should You Do If You Think You Are Having A Heart Attack
If you have symptoms of a heart attack, act fast. Quick treatment could save your life.
If your doctor has prescribed nitroglycerin for angina:
If you do not have nitroglycerin:
The best choice is to go to the hospital in an ambulance. The paramedics can begin life-saving treatments even before you arrive at the hospital. If you cannot reach emergency services, have someone drive you to the hospital right away. Do not drive yourself unless you have absolutely no other choice.