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What is heart disease?
Heart disease is any condition that affects the structure or function of the heart. Most people think of heart disease as one condition. But in fact, heart disease is a group of conditions with many different root causes.
Types of heart disease
There are many different types of heart disease. Some types can be grouped together according to how they affect the structure or function of your heart.
Heart disease can be caused by:
- Medical conditions
Heart Attack Symptoms In Women Vs Men
Women are more likely than men to have silent heart attacks and heart attacks without chest pain. Heart attacks are also more likely to start when a woman is at rest or experiencing mental stress.
That means its especially important for women to watch out for symptoms like shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, nausea or vomiting, or pain in the jaw, arms or back.
Also, we now know that young women are particularly prone to a type of heart event called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection , which we talk about in more depth below.
Surgical Treatment For Major Heart Attacks
Grafting: A blocked artery may also be treated with coronary artery bypass grafting, sometimes referred to as bypass surgery. In this procedure, a blood vessel is taken from elsewhere in the body and attached, or grafted, onto the blocked artery. With this, blood flow can be rerouted around the blockage.
Stent: A stent is a tiny, flexible, mesh tube that is placed at the site of the blockage. This opens up your blocked artery for normal blood flow. The plaque is pressed against the wall of the artery and the stent allows blood to pass through it.
Preventing A Heart Attack
There are 5 main steps you can take to reduce your risk of having a heart attack :
- smokers should quit smoking
- lose weight if you’re overweight or obese
- do regular exercise adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, unless advised otherwise by the doctor in charge of your care
- eat a low-fat, high-fibre diet, including wholegrains and at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- moderate your alcohol consumption
Causes Of Heart Attack
A heart attack, as previously described, occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked. However, other conditions, traits or habits may also raise your risk for this condition. These are known as risk factors and include:
Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of a heart attack.
- Male gender
- Occur at any age however, if youre over 40 or have multiple risk factors work closely with your doctor.
- Family history/Genetics
- Little to no physical activity
- Obesity or having a body mass index BMI of 30 or greater
- Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse
- Diabetes: when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high
- Extreme emotional stress
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Life After A Heart Attack
A heart attack is often a devastating event that severely disrupts your life. Still, many people find ways to live a full, enjoyable life after having one.
Some people experience their heart attack as a wake-up call that they need to make certain lifestyle changes.
Eating habits may need to be changed after a heart attack, along with lifestyle factors like stress and physical activity.
Recovering from a heart attack can be physically and emotionally taxing, with some people experiencing depression stemming from their limitations.
Its important to reach out for any help you need to deal with recovery-related challenges.
Duration Of A Heart Attack
If you experience symptoms that may indicate a heart attack for longer than five minutes, its important to seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Dont delay treatment by waiting to see if your symptoms go away. Even if your symptoms let up or change, there may be ongoing damage to your heart.
The sooner treatment is administered, the less likely a heart attack is to cause significant or long-lasting damage to your heart muscle.
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Six Types Of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is a term that refers to more than one disease of the circulatory system including the heart and blood vessels, whether the blood vessels are affecting the lungs, the brain, kidneys or other parts of the body. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in adult Canadian men and women.
The following six types of cardiovascular disease are highlighted below:
Are The Symptoms Of Heart Attack Different For Women
The most common heart attack symptom for women is pain or discomfort in the chest. However, women are more likely to have a heart attack without having any chest pain. Therefore, women should pay close attention to other symptoms of heart attack. These include shortness of breath, sweating, fatigue, and dizziness.
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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.
When Can I Resume My Usual Activities
Recovery from a heart attack after youre released from the hospital depends on the severity of the heart attack, how soon treatment began, methods used and the health conditions you had if any before your heart attack. Your healthcare provider can explain the next steps for your recovery and what you can expect. In general, most people can return to work or resume their usual activities anywhere between two weeks to three months after their heart attack.
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How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Having A Heart Attack
Although there are several risk factors that you cant control, there are many ways you can help yourself and reduce your risk of a heart attack. These include:
- Schedule a checkup: Find a primary care provider and see them at least once a year for a checkup or wellness visit. An annual checkup can catch many of the early warning signs of heart disease, including signs that you can’t feel. These include your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and more.
- Quit tobacco products: This includes smokeless tobacco and all vaping products.
- Exercise regularly: Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a week.
- Eat a healthy diet: Examples include the Mediterranean or Dash diets. A plant-based diet approach is an excellent alternative.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Your primary care provider can advise you on a healthy goal weight and provide you resources and guidance to help you reach that goal.
- Manage your existing health conditions: This includes high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Reduce your stress: Consider techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation.
- Take your medications: Dont just take medications when you remember to or when you have a doctors appointment coming up.
- Keep all your medical appointments: Seeing your healthcare providers regularly can help uncover heart-related issues or other medical problems you didn’t know you had. This can also help treat problems sooner rather than later.
How Are Heart Attacks Treated
Treating a heart attack means restoring blood flow to the affected heart muscle as soon as possible. This can happen in a variety of ways, ranging from medication to surgery. It’s extremely likely that treatment will use several of the following methods.
People having trouble breathing or with low blood oxygen levels will often receive supplementary oxygen along with other heart attack treatments. You can breathe the oxygen either through a tube that sits just below your nose or a mask that fits over your nose and mouth. This increases the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood and reduces the strain on your heart.
- Anti-clotting medications: This includes aspirin and other blood-thinning medicines.
- Nitroglycerin: This medicine is used to relieve chest pain. It also is a powerful vasodilator, meaning it causes blood vessels to widen so blood can pass through more easily.
- Thrombolytic medications: These intravenous medications cause blood clots to break down and dissolve. These medications are usually used only within the first 12 hours after a heart attack.
- Anti-arrhythmia medications: Heart attacks can often cause malfunctions in your hearts normal beating rhythm called arrhythmias. Some arrhythmias can be life-threatening. Anti-arrhythmia medications can stop or prevent these malfunctions.
- Pain medications: The most common pain medication given during heart attack care is morphine. This can help alleviate chest pain.
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Types Of Heart Attack
The type of heart attack you experienced determines the treatments that your medical team will recommend. These include:
- ST- segment elevation myocardial infarction : This type of heart attack occurs when a coronary artery is completely blocked.As a result, a large portion of the heart cannot receive blood, and the heart muscle quickly begins to die. STEMI are the deadliest type of heart attacks.
- Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction : This type of heart attack occurs when a coronary artery is severely restricted but not entirely blocked. NSTEMIs usually cause less damage to the heart than their counterpart, STEMI.
Causes And Risk Factors
Coronary artery disease is connected to the development of plaquesor blockagesin the walls of the arteries. These blockages act similar to a clog in the sink and prevent blood from flowing where it needs to go. Most plaques develop from elevated cholesterol that can coat the inside lining of blood vessels.
When cholesterol levels are high for a long period of time, cholesterol can accumulate and form large blockages that can lead to ischemia. You can help prevent cholesterol buildup by:
- Modifying your diet to have high levels of fiber and low levels of unhealthy fats
- Limiting the consumption of red meat and salt in your diet
- Exercising regularly, ideally 30 minutes a day
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When Should You Call For Immediate Medical Help
Heart disease is a serious and sometimes life-threatening issue. Seek medical attention if you experience:
- Pain, pressure, tightness, or discomfort in the chest, shoulders, arms, neck, back, upper abdomen, or jaw
- Difficulty breathing and fatigue
- Sensation like your heart is racing in your chest
If you think you may be having a medical emergency, contact 911.
Cardiac Arrest Or Heart Attack
A heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest. They are two different types of cardiac event.
A heart attack occurs when a coronary artery becomes blocked, preventing blood flow to part of the heart muscle. During a heart attack a person remains conscious and keeps breathing.
A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. Normal breathing stops and consciousness is lost.
Sometimes a heart attack can cause a cardiac arrest. This is because a person who is having a heart attack may develop a dangerous heart rhythm, which causes a cardiac arrest. A heart attack and a cardiac arrest are both emergency situations. Call 111 straight away.
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Diagnosing Heart Attack Today
Although many people think of a heart attack as an event that causes disabling chest pain, it is not always so straightforward. Because everyone’s symptoms can be different, diagnosing a heart attack requires the combination of a doctor’s judgment, signs and symptoms, and test results. “No one method is ideal on its own, but when they are used together, we can reach a conclusion that is highly accurate,” says Dr. Januzzi.
To understand the significance of the possible causes of chest pain, it is important to determine what is actually going on inside the body.
In a heart attack, the amount of blood reaching heart muscle cells is inadequate to keep them alive. Usually, something has stopped blood flow through an artery that nourishes the heart . Most often, this occurs when a plaque of atherosclerosis ruptures, spilling its cholesterol-rich contents into the center of the artery and triggering a blood clot. Sometimes, it is caused by a spasm of the artery that narrows the interior of the artery temporarily, preventing blood flow. As a result, cells in the area of the heart muscle fed by the artery are injured. If blood flow is restored within an hour or two, some of the injured cells may recover. If not, they begin to die from lack of oxygen. If the damage is permanent and extensive, the heart may no longer be able to contract and pump well. When this happens, the person may develop heart failure, or even die.
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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Why Didnt I Have Any Warning
The process of atherosclerosis has no symptoms. When a coronary artery narrows and constricts blood flow, other nearby blood vessels that serve the heart sometimes expand to compensate, which may explain why there are no warning signs.
Such a network of expanded nearby blood vessels is called collateral circulation, and it helps protect some people from heart attacks by delivering needed blood to the heart. Collateral circulation can also develop after a heart attack to help the heart muscle recover.
Treatment Of Heart Attack
With each passing minute after a heart attack, more heart tissue loses oxygen and deteriorates or dies. Once the heart attack is diagnosed, treatment begins immediately, possibly in the ambulance or emergency room. Treatment options include:
Medications: The goals of medication therapy are to break up or even prevent blood clots, prevent platelets from gathering and sticking to plaque, stabilize the plaque, and prevent further lack of oxygen to the heart muscle. These medications must be given as soon as possible to decrease the amount of damage to the heart muscle.
Medication options may include the following:
- Aspirin will treat pain, inflammation, and reduce risk of a heart attack.
- Thrombolytic therapy is the administration of drugs called lytics or clot busters that will help break up or dissolve blood clots.
- Anticoagulants blood-thinners will help treat, prevent and reduce blood clotting.
- Other antiplatelet drugs such as brilinta and prasugrel.
- Statins will help reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.
- Any combination of the above
Medical and surgical procedures
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