Heart attacks are very scary things and if you have had one you will know what a serious event this is. Fortunately there are many very good treatments for those who have had heart attacks and excellent education and prevention programs so that they do not happen again. This article gives information about what a heart attack really is and talks about the latest treatments and preventative measures that can be taken to prevent this nasty medical event.
What is it?
We all know that the heart pumps that blood around the body and generally it does a pretty good job of this. The blood carries the oxygen that you breathe in around your body and passes it on to your muscles so that you can function and perform everyday activities. As your heart is also a muscle it too requires a good supply in order to keep pumping effectively. In the event of a heart attack one of the vessels that provides this oxygen to your heart becomes blocked and as a result that part of the heart does not get the oxygen it requires to survive. This is what causes lots of pain, usually in the chest area and some of the nerve fibers that supply your heart also supply your arm and jaw and this is why your can get pain in these areas also. If this blood supply remains cut off for a long period of time then that part of the heart will die and will never regain function. Treatment that will happen in the hospital will be to open up that occluded vessel and get the blood flowing again. Time is critical and if the vessel can be opened up again in minimal time there is a good chance that the heart muscle will survive. The medical team will watch you for some time afterwards to ensure that you do not develop some of the complications such as an irregular heartbeat. Also if a large part of your heart is killed by lack of oxygen then this may affect how well your heart is able to pump the blood around the rest of your body and in severe cases this can cause heart failure. The highest risk time is the first few hours following the attack and then after that you will probably need to stay for observation in hospital for five days or so.
Heart attacks are not always predictable and some seemingly healthy people them. It is not fully understood why this happens but what we do know is that heart attacks are caused by blood clots that form in your arteries. Those with narrow arteries as a result of a process called atherosclerosis that happens secondary to high fat and cholesterol is the most common cause of a heart attack. Having this atherosclerosis in the vessels that supply your heart is known as heart disease and you can have this for many years before having a heart attack.
Heart attacks are more common in men, those with high blood pressure, smokers, and overweight and in those who do not exercise much. Therefore one of the best ways to avoid having a heart attack is to alter the above things, however it is understood that it is relatively difficult to alter being a male. A family history of having heart attacks is also important as this can increase your risk somewhat.
When you are discharged from the hospital you will be able to begin to get back into your normal routine. The key thing here is to take it slowly as you do not want to put too much stress on your body early on. Most people are able to return to a relatively normal state of life within 6 weeks post heart attack and most younger people can return to work in about three months. It is vital to attend a cardiac rehabilitation program where you will be given support from specialist nurses. You should discuss this with your doctors before you leave the hospital.
You need to try hard to stop smoking, lose weight and exercise. Advice regarding all of these things can be given at the cardiac rehabilitation program that you simply must attend. Taking part in this program will help you recover from your heart attack and help to keep you and your heart healthy into the future. They will also teach you how to manage stress and depression, which are common following a heart attack. There is research that says that those who attend cardiac rehab programs go on to live longer, healthier lives.
After a heart attack you will most likely leave the hospital with lots of medications and it is important to ask your doctor what each of these are and what they do. You may need to take these for months, years or even for the rest of your life and so you should know a bit about them. Also if you have another heart attack the doctor will want to know what medications you are on and it will really help them out if you can tell them. Aspirin is a common medication and stops your blood from sticking together so that you are less likely to get a blood clot and have another heart attack. You may also be given similar drugs called clopidogrel or dipyridamole. Beta-blockers are medications that slow your heart down and therefore take some of the strain off your heart. Statins are medications that lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood and thus reduce the risk of future heart attack. ACE inhibitors stop you blood vessels from narrowing and this makes it easier for blood to get around your body and provide oxygen to your muscles including your heart. All of these medications do have side effects and you should talk to your doctor about this.
Some people who have heart attacks have an operation called angioplasty where they insert a wire through a vessel and work it up to your heart in order to dilate the vessel that is blocked. Another option that may be done is to use medications to dissolve the clots in your blood stream. If the wire option is chosen then sometimes when the artery is opened a stent will be placed so that it remains open.
Well you have survived the initial heart attack and so this is the most promising thing, you have been given a second chance and you must be grateful for this. How well you do will depend on how much of your heart was damaged and well it is functioning now. Doctors look at four things to predict how well you will do in the future and these are: How well your heart is pumping, where and how much your heart has been damaged, how old you are and your blood pressure and heart rate at the time of admission to hospital. Most importantly though is what you do now, the changes that you make to life are the most important thing.