Heart attack: understand how a heart attack occurs and how to prevent it

Cardiovascular diseases are diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels and represent the biggest cause of death worldwide. When the disease affects the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle it is called coronary heart disease.

The most serious form of coronary heart disease is heart attack, when there is a blockage that prevents blood from flowing to the heart.

Everyone has heard of this problem, but not everyone knows how it occurs and how to prevent it. Follow the text to find out! Good reading!

What is a heart attack?

The human heart receives oxygen and nutrients through the coronary arteries, the vessels responsible for irrigating this organ. These arteries are initially affected when a heart attack occurs.

Heart attack – also known as myocardial infarction – is a condition in which there is a blockage of oxygenated blood flow to the heart muscle, due to an obstruction in some coronary artery. Because of this lack of blood, the muscle enters a process of hypoxia (low oxygenation in the tissues), which can lead to damage or death of the cells.

The blockage of the artery occurs due to the junction of blood clots with fatty plaques on the wall of the blood vessel. This buildup gradually increases, to the point where the blood is no longer able to flow and there is a sudden interruption of the blood flow.

The infarction can happen in different parts of the heart, according to the coronary artery that was blocked.

What are the main types of infarction?

There are 5 types of heart attack.

Type 1

Type 1 infarction is the most common, and occurs when there is an accident with an atheromatous plaque (accumulation of fat from the inner layer of the artery) in some coronary artery. This plaque undergoes erosion, rupture, fissure or desiccation, leading to the formation of a blood clot that blocks blood flow. The attack occurs spontaneously.

Type 2

Type 2 occurs when there is an imbalance between consumption and supply of oxygen to the heart muscle. It can happen due to the increased demand for oxygen or the decrease in supply, which happens in situations such as:

  • after non-cardiac surgery;
  • coronary embolism;
  • deep anemia;
  • thyrotoxic crisis (excess circulation of thyroid hormones );
  • high hypertension or hypotension;
  • cardiac arrhythmias.

Type 3

Type 3 infarction is also known as fulminant infarction, which leads to sudden death before any treatment can be performed. The post-death examination shows cardiac ischemia (decreased oxygen to the cardiac cells).

Type 4

Type 4 infarction is one that occurs after a person has had a coronary angioplasty (surgical procedure performed to unblock the coronary arteries and restore normal blood flow) or to place a stent in the coronary artery (tiny, expandable and mesh-shaped tube to unblock it) the artery).

In angioplasty, the destruction of a fatty plaque in the artery can generate fragments that obstruct nearby small vessels. After the stent is placed, a blood thrombus may form around the piece.

Type 5

Type 5 infarction is one that occurs after a person has undergone myocardial revascularization surgery, also known as bypass surgery.

This surgery is performed when there is an obstruction of a coronary. A portion of the saphenous vein in the leg is removed to create a bridge between the aorta and the vessels of the heart, restoring blood flow.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Not every heart attack has immediate symptoms, which makes the problem even more dangerous. When symptoms appear, they can last from minutes to hours, be weak or intense, disappear or appear again. They are divided between classic and atypical.

The classic symptoms are:

  • pain or discomfort in the chest area that can radiate to the back, face, left arm and right arm (rarely);
  • feeling of heaviness or tightness on the chest;
  • cold sweat;
  • fainting.

Atypical symptoms are more uncommon and appear more in women, including:

  • shortness of breath;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • heartburn;
  • excessive fatigue.

As these latter symptoms are not commonly related to infarction, they can be confused with other diseases.

What causes heart attack?

The main cause of infarction is coronary artery disease, which occurs when there is an accumulation of substances – such as cholesterol – in the artery wall, leading to the formation of atheromatous plaques. Heart attack happens when one or more arteries are blocked by these plaques.

The person begins to show symptoms of blocked arteries when an important vessel has more than 70% of its light blocked. The other less common causes of heart attack are:

  • spasm of a coronary artery, after using drugs like cocaine;
  • severe decrease in blood flow to the heart, when there is marked hypotension;
  • interruption of blood flow by a clot that came from another part of the body.

What are the risk factors?

The list of risk factors for the occurrence of a heart attack is long, including both factors that cannot be modified, and others that can be modified. They are:

  • age 65 or older;
  • male;
  • menopause;
  • heredity;
  • history of pre-eclampsia or autoimmune disease;
  • smoking ;
  • high cholesterol ;
  • arterial hypertension;
  • sedentary lifestyle;
  • obesity;
  • diabetes;
  • stress;
  • alcoholism;
  • use of drugs.

How is the treatment done?

The treatment of heart attack is done through mechanical or surgical procedures and drug treatment.

Procedures that can be performed include defibrillation and cardiac procedures, performed by catheterization or direct surgery. Heart attack medications include:

  • thrombolytics: help to break blood clots;
  • antiplatelet agents: prevent the formation of other clots;
  • analgesics: to relieve pain and discomfort;
  • acetylsalicylic acid : helps maintain blood flow in other coronary arteries that are not blocked;
  • nitroglycerin: medicine that dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow in the heart;
  • beta-blocker: medicine that helps to relax the heart muscle.

How to prevent a heart attack?

Prevention is always the most important way to avoid different health conditions, which is no different for heart attack. Some risk factors for heart attack cannot be modified, but there are others in which we can interfere and reduce the chance of the problem happening.

Some tips to prevent a heart attack are:

  • control weight and maintain a healthy diet;
  • perform physical exercises;
  • have good management of other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension;
  • stop smoking and reduce alcohol consumption;
  • perform periodic check-ups with general practitioners and cardiologists .

Heart attack is a very serious health condition, which can lead to death depending on its severity or the time until treatment begins.

 

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