Lack of blood flow to one section of heart muscle results in death of a part of the heart and is called as “Heart Attack”. Oxygen rich blood is supplied to heart through three major coronary arteries which are running over the surface of the heart.
Coronary artery disease results due to deposition of a waxy substance called cholesterol which builds up a plaque inside the arterial wall over years of fat consumption, smoking, lack of exercise, obesity and stress. Diabetes and hypertension accelerate this process of atherosclerosis in coronary arteries.
Plaque in the coronary artery can get eroded or rupture one fine morning without any warning symptoms leading to acute heart attacks. Sudden death can occur in approximately 20-30% patients at home or on the way to hospital. This usually happens due to sudden stoppage of effective heart beat called Ventricular Tachycardia or Ventricular Fibrillation (VT or VF). In hospital setting such arrhythmias are treated by DC Cardioversion (Shock).
Warning Symptoms of Heart Attack
Many patients are not sure of the symptoms of heart attack; hence delay in responding and reaching hospital. Some of the most common warning symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest or left arm. It feels like pressure, squeezing, fullness. It can also feel like indigestion or heart burn or throat chocking. Dizziness, vomiting and breathlessness can also accompany these symptoms. Breaking out in cold sweats, extreme tiredness, unusual decline in stamina are also the presenting symptoms of heart attack. Sometimes, the symptoms are so subtle that people are surprised to know that they have suffered a heart attack. Quick action in the form of taking a Dispirin dissolved in water at home, rushing to nearest cath lab enabled hospital are the key to survival.
Treatment of heart attack should be instituted as early as possible so as to minimize the damage caused due to lack of oxygen rich blood supply. Treatment constitutes resuming blood flow through the blocked artery either by drugs like thrombolytic or mechanical revascularization as in angioplasty and putting a scaffolding tube (stent) inside the artery. This procedure is very swift and safe in expert hands.
Prevention of CAD should be observed in the form of avoiding cholesterol rich food, trans-fat and excessive sweets, regular exercise of 30 minutes brisk walk. No tobacco use, control of blood pressure and diabetes and taking regular medication prescribed by your physician. Stress free life style goes a long way in preventing premature CAD.
After a heart attack, many patients worry about having another heart attack. Sometimes they feel depressed, anxious and these are the ones who are more susceptible to another heart attack. As in a heart break, the feeling of loneliness surrounds a traumatized mind, similarly following a heart attack, one may feel a sense of doom and gloomy perspective of further productive years of his career. Large scale studies show that 15% of people who survive a heart attack, become quite seriously depressed in the first few weeks and another 25% experience the mild levels of depression or anxiety. Anxiolytic and anti-depression drugs may be taken for relief of symptoms.
Resumption of sexual activity is also ridden with substantial anxiety and fear of over exerting oneself during this physical and emotional experience. It is advised to resume slow sexual activity after a few weeks of recovery from a heart attack and avoiding intake of drugs like Viagra (sildenafil) especially if nitrates have been prescribed by your doctor. This may result in sharp fall in blood pressure and feeling dizzy. Driving is also permitted after a few weeks of heart attack if it is free of complication like heart failure. Support of family and friends is of utmost relevance in the phase of recovery from a heart attack. Joining social groups, interacting with people who have recovered from a heart attack and participating in creative, entertaining hobbies will definitely help recover faster after a heart attack.