A heart attack is an emergency condition that requires urgent and immediate medical assistance. A heart attack, also referred to as myocardial infarction, occurs when there is less or blocked supply of oxygen to the heart muscles causing it to destroy healthy heart muscle, eventually leading to death of heart muscle.
These blockages happen when there is a build-up of cholesterol, fat, or other substances that can calcify and harden up to cause plaque that leads to blockages. Plaque can rupture, causing a blood clot in the heart muscle that completely blocks the supply of oxygen to that part of the heart. The heart becomes stressed and the pain a person experiences is called angina.
Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death in the world. They, along with other Cardio Vascular diseases like strokes, coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, hypertensive heart disease, inflammatory heart disease, etc. comprise of more than 7 million deaths worldwide every year. in Myanmar, as per 2014 statistics, heart attacks account for 30,018 deaths out of the total number of death that occur every year – that is 7.55 percent of all total deaths in the country. Myanmar ranks 100 in the world for number of deaths due to heart attacks.
The symptoms of heart attacks vary from person to person. They can be different for males and females, and can be different for people of different ages. However some of the most common symptoms of heart attack are as follows –
- Pain, ache, feeling of pressure or tightness in the chest or arm that spreads towards the back, neck and jaw.
- Indigestion, pain in the abdominal area, heartburn
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cold sweat
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or light headedness
At times, the symptoms of heart attack can be so vague that an individual suffering a heart attack might not know that they are undergoing a heart attack. For some, the symptoms may start days or even weeks in advance. Some people could even experience a sudden seizure.
When should I see a doctor?
You should seek medical assistance as soon as you identify any of the aforementioned symptoms. Individuals suffering an attack, or those around the person should immediately call for emergency medical services. You can take an aspirin for emergency only if recommended as an aspirin can prevent blood clots.
People experienced in CPR should immediately start administering CPR to the person undergoing an attack to minimize the effects of the heart attack.
The response of doctors to an individual who is having a heart attack includes conducting a physical examination and collating medical history data of the person. A doctor will first recommend an ECG (Electrocardiogram), a chest X-ray and blood tests to determine the extent of damage. Some cases can be treated with medications like Aspirins, Thrombolytics, antiplatelet agents, pain relievers, nitrogycerin and beta blockers.
If the doctor diagnoses a myocardial infarction or a rupture, they perform surgeries like angioplasty, stenting and coronary artery bypass surgeries to clear any blockages, or repair ruptures and tears.
Medical advancements in treatment of heart attacks have enabled good prognosis for heart attacks. However, success of treatment also depends upon the immediate medical attention an individual receives. In spite of the advancements, a large number of individuals die due to heart attacks.
Heart attacks are dependent on a person’s lifestyle. The easiest way to prevent heart attacks is to lead a healthy lifestyle and make simple alterations like
- Avoid smoking completely
- Keep a check on blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Maintain and keep a check on weight and diabetes
- Reduce stress
- Reduce consumption of alcohol.
- Take medications regularly if you have already had a heart attack to prevent the occurrence of another one.