What Do I Do If I Have A Heart Attack
After a heart attack, you need quick treatment to open the blocked artery and lessen the damage. At the first signs of a heart attack, call 911. The best time to treat a heart attack is within 1 or 2 hours after symptoms begin. Waiting longer means more damage to your heart and a lower chance of survival.
Common Heart Attack Treatments
Youll find many common heart attack treatments listed here. For more detailed explanations of these treatments, see our page devoted to cardiac procedures.
- Angioplasty: Special tubing with an attached deflated balloon is threaded up to the coronary arteries.
- Angioplasty, Laser: Similar to angioplasty except that the catheter has a laser tip that opens the blocked artery.
- Artificial heart valve surgery: Replaces an abnormal or diseased heart valve with a healthy one.
- Atherectomy: Similar to angioplasty except that the catheter has a rotating shaver on its tip to cut away plaque from the artery.
- Treats blocked heart arteries by creating new passages for blood to flow to your heart muscle.
- Cardiomyoplasty: An experimental procedure in which skeletal muscles are taken from a patients back or abdomen.
- Heart transplant: Removes a diseased heart and replaces it with a donated healthy human heart.
- Minimally invasive heart surgery: An alternative to standard bypass surgery.
- Radiofrequency ablation: A catheter with an electrode at its tip is guided through the veins to the heart muscle to destroy carefully selected heart muscle cells in a very small area.
- Stent procedure: A stent is a wire mesh tube used to prop open an artery during angioplasty.
- Transmyocardial revascularization : A laser is used to drill a series of holes from the outside of the heart into the hearts pumping chamber.
What Are The Complications Of A Heart Attack
Complications associated with heart attacks include:
- Arrhythmias : Management options include medication, pacemaker placement, implantable cardioverter defibrillator placement and other options.
- Heart failure: If enough heart tissue has died, your heart is now weakened and cant pump blood effectively, which can lead to heart failure.
- Heart valve problems: Depending on the area of heart damage, your heart valves may be affected. Catheter-based procedures or surgery are treatment options for heart valve problems.
- Sudden cardiac arrest: This sudden stoppage of your heart can be caused by arrhythmia.
- Depression and anxiety: Talk to your healthcare provider. Management includes medication and counseling. Joining a support group can help.
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Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention
Primary percutaneous coronary intervention is the term for emergency treatment of an STEMI. It’s a procedure to widen the coronary artery .
Coronary angiography is done first, to assess your suitability for PCI.
You may also be given blood-thinning medicines to prevent further clots from forming, such as low-dose aspirin.
You may need to continue taking medicines for some time after PCI.
Risk Factors For Heart Attack
Certain factors contribute to the unwanted buildup of fatty deposits that narrows arteries throughout your body. You can improve or eliminate many of these risk factors to reduce your chances of having a first or another heart attack.
Age. As you get older, your risk of heart disease increases. Men 45 or older and women age 55 or older are more likely to have a heart attack than are younger men and women.
High blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can damage arteries that feed your heart. High blood pressure that occurs with other conditions, such as obesity, high cholesterol, or diabetes, increases your risk even more.
High blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels. A high level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is most likely to narrow arteries. A high level of triglycerides, a type of blood fat related to your diet, also ups your risk of a heart attack. However, a high level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol lowers your risk of a heart attack.
Metabolic syndrome. This occurs when you have obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Having metabolic syndrome makes you twice as likely to develop heart disease than if you dont have it.
Family history. If someone in your family has had a heart attack, speak to your doctor or health practitioner about your risk.
Depression, social isolation, and lack of quality support. You might respond to stress in ways that can increase your risk of a heart attack.
Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person. They can include:
- pain or discomfort in your chest that happens suddenly and doesn’t go away
- pain that spreads to your left or right arm, or to your neck, jaw, back or stomach. For some people the pain or tightness is severe, while for others its uncomfortable. It may feel like heaviness, or a burning pain similar to indigestion
- feeling sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.
Its possible to have a heart attack without experiencing all these symptoms, and its important to remember everyone experiences pain differently. This is common in the elderly or people with diabetes, as the condition can cause nerve damage which affects how you feel pain.
What Can I Expect If I Have This Condition
After you’ve had a heart attack, you’re at a higher risk of a similar occurrence. Your healthcare provider will likely recommend follow-up monitoring, testing and care to avoid future heart attacks. Some of these include:
- Heart scans: Similar to the methods used to diagnose a heart attack, these can assess the effects of your heart attack and determine if you have permanent heart damage. They can also look for signs of heart and circulatory problems that increase the chance of future heart attacks.
- Stress test: Your provider may also recommend that you undergo a stress test. These are heart tests and scans that take place while youre exercising. Stress tests can show potential problems that stand out only when your heart is working harder.
- Cardiac rehabilitation: Your healthcare provider may recommend that you go through a cardiac rehabilitation program during your recovery from a heart attack. These programs are medically supervised and focus on helping you improve your overall health and lifestyle, which can prevent another heart attack. Cardiac rehabilitation generally involves a team of providers and experts, including doctors, physical therapists, nurses, exercise specialists/trainers, dietitians, health educators, counselors and more.
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Use An Aed If You Can
In some areas of the country, simple computerized defibrillators, known as automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, may be available for use by the public or the first person on the scene. The goal is to provide access to defibrillation when needed as quickly as possible. CPR along with AEDs can dramatically increase survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest. If available, this early defibrillation becomes the next link in the chain of survival.
AEDs give an electric shock through the chest wall to the heart. The device has built-in computers that check the victim’s heart rhythm, judge whether defibrillation is needed, and then send the shock. Audible or visual prompts guide the user through the process.
Most AEDs are designed to be used by non-medical people such as fire department personnel, police officers, lifeguards, flight attendants, security guards, teachers, bystanders, and even family members of people at high risk of sudden cardiac death.
AEDs cannot shock a person who is not in cardiac arrest. An AED treats only a heart in an abnormal rhythm. If a person is in cardiac arrest without such a rhythm, the heart will not respond to electric currents. CPR should be administered until EMS arrives.
Once the EMS unit arrives, the next link in the chain of survival is early advanced life support care. This involves giving medications, using special breathing devices, and providing more defibrillation shocks if needed.
Can I Prevent Having A Heart Attack
In general, there are many things that you can do that may prevent a heart attack. However, some factors beyond your control especially your family history can still lead to a heart attack despite your best efforts. Still, reducing your risk can postpone when you have a heart attack and reduce the severity if you have one.
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Changing Your Lifestyle Can Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Attack
Dealing with the lifestyle factors that contribute to CVD, which you can change, can help reduce your risk of heart attack. Things you can do include:
- take medicines as prescribed
- eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains
- eat a variety of healthy protein sources especially fish and seafood, legumes , nuts and seeds. Smaller amounts of eggs and lean poultry can also be included in a heart healthy diet. If choosing red meat, make sure the meat is lean and limit to 1 to 3 times a week
- unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese if you have high blood cholesterol you should choose reduced fat varieties
- healthy fat choices with nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking
- herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt
- drink mainly water
Are There Complications Of A Heart Attack
Complications following a heart attack can include:
- Arrhythmia your heart may develop an irregular heartbeat following a heart attack due to damaged heart muscles disrupting electrical signals.
- Heart failure your heart may have ongoing difficulty pumping enough blood, due to its muscles being too weak or stiff.
- Cardiogenic shock where your whole body goes into shock from extensive heart muscle damage.
- Heart rupture this is a rare but serious complication in which the hearts muscles, walls or valves split apart.
These can be dangerous if untreated, but your healthcare team will help to manage them if they occur.
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Q How Can I Test My Heart At Home
- Check pulse and heart rate: Feel your pulse to check your heart rate and rhythm. A pulse matches up with a heartbeat that pumps blood through your arteries and heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in one minute. The stronger the pulse, the better is the strength of your blood flow and blood pressure.
- Check Blood Pressure: When at rest, the normal blood pressure is less than 120 over less than 80. The reading of 130/80 or higher is high blood pressure. If you have a consistent high BP then there’s a probability of your heart being blocked.
- Blood Test: Check the sodium, potassium, albumin, and creatinine levels in your blood. Abnormal levels could suggest possible signs of heart failure, or kidney or liver problems.
Women Have Heart Attacks Too
Women and men usually experience the same heart attack symptoms. But research shows women tend to not recognise the symptoms as a sign of a heart attack as quickly.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, you should call 999 immediately.In the UK, an average of three women die of coronary heart disease every hour, many of them due to a heart attack.You dramatically reduce your chance of survival if you don’t call 999 straight away.
Most heart attacks are caused by coronary heart disease .
CHD causes your coronary arteries to become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty deposits called atheroma.
If a piece of atheroma breaks off, a blood clot forms around this to try and repair the damage to the artery wall.
This clot can block your coronary artery either a partial blockage or total blockage . This causes your heart muscle to be starved of blood and oxygen.
Other less common causes of a heart attack include:
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Antiplatelet Agents And Dual Antiplatelet Therapy
Commonly prescribed include:
Keeps blood clots from forming by preventing blood platelets from sticking together.
Reason for Medication
- Helps prevent clotting in patients who have had a heart attack, unstable angina, ischemic strokes, TIA and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
- Can also be prescribed preventively when plaque buildup is evident but there is not yet a major blockage in the artery.
- Certain patients will be prescribed aspirin combined with another antiplatelet drug also known as dual antiplatelet therapy .
Dual Antiplatelet Therapy
Some patients who have heart attacks, that have stents placed in their coronary arteries, or undergo coronary artery bypass graft surgery are treated with two types of antiplatelet agents at the same time to prevent blood clotting. This is called dual antiplatelet therapy .
One antiplatelet agent is aspirin. Almost everyone with coronary artery disease, including those who have had a heart attack, stent, or CABG are treated with aspirin for the rest of their lives. A second type of antiplatelet agent, called a P2Y12 inhibitor, is usually prescribed for months or years in addition to the aspirin therapy.
The type of medication and the duration of your treatment will vary based on your condition and other risk factors. The risks and benefits of DAPT should be discussed with your health care provider.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitor: Ezetimibe
- Combination statin and cholesterol absorption inhibitors: Ezetimibe/Simvastatin
What Are The Symptoms Of A Silent Heart Attack
People who have a silent heart attack have symptoms not normally associated with a heart attack, mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. They may not realize theyve had a heart attack.
With a silent heart attack, symptoms can make you feel like:
- You have the flu.
- Feeling stressed.
Some things put you at a higher risk of a heart attack, but you cant change them. These include:
- Having a history of heart disease in your family.
- Having preeclampsia during pregnancy.
- Being Native American, Mexican American, Black or native Hawaiian.
- Being older than 45 .
- Being postmenopausal or older than 55 .
- Being infected with COVID-19.
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Is Acute Coronary Syndrome The Same As A Heart Attack
Acute coronary syndrome is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency medical care and can result in a heart attack. Acute coronary syndrome is a name given to three types of coronary artery disease associated with a sudden rupture of plaque inside the coronary artery:
- ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction or heart attack .*
- Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction or heart attack .*
The location of the blockage, the length of time that blood flow is blocked and the amount of damage that occurs determine the type of acute coronary syndrome.*See the Electrocardiogram description in the Diagnosis & Tests section for an explanation of STEMI and non-STEMI heart attacks.
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Attack
The major symptoms of a heart attack are
- Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint. You may also break out into a cold sweat.
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders.
- Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort.
Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms. Learn more about women and heart disease.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.1Learn more facts about heart attack and heart disease.
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What To Do When They Happen
If you or someone youâre with has chest discomfort or other heart attack symptoms, call 911 right away. While your first impulse may be to drive yourself or the heart attack victim to the hospital, itâs better to get an ambulance. Emergency medical services personnel can start treatment on the way to the hospital. Theyâre also trained to revive a person if their heart stops.
If you can’t reach EMS, drive the person to the hospital. If youâre the one with the symptoms, donât drive yourself to the hospital unless you have no other choice.
Many people delay treatment because they doubt they are having a heart attack. They don’t want to bother or worry their friends and family.
Itâs always better to be safe than sorry.
Diagnosis Of A Heart Attack
Tests to help diagnose a heart attack include:
- a blood test to measure levels of enzymes released into the blood when the heart muscle is damaged
- cardiac catheterisation a tube, or catheter, is threaded into the coronary arteries via a blood vessel in the groin. A special dye is then injected into the coronary artery. This outlines the artery while movie x-rays are taken. Narrowings and blockages within the artery are outlined by the dye
- electrocardiogram a reading of the hearts electrical impulses.
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The Most Common Signs Of A Heart Attack For Both Men And Women Include:
- Chest pain or discomfort – Most heart attacks cause pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest. This feeling can be mild or severe. The discomfort typically lasts longer than a few minutes and can go away and return. It may feel like pressure, fullness, pain, or squeezing in the chest.
- Upper body discomfort – Heart attacks may cause pain or discomfort in one or both arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach.
- Shortness of breath – Shortness of breath may be the only symptom of a heart attack or may occur before or with chest pain. It can occur while resting or doing physical activity.