A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, is the result of an abrupt obstruction in a coronary artery. This sudden blockage restricts blood circulation, preventing the heart from receiving oxygen-rich blood, which can lead to severe, even fatal, damage to the heart muscle.

Understanding the Root Cause of a Heart Attack

The primary cause of a heart attack is the formation of a blood clot within a coronary artery. Elevated cholesterol levels can lead to the accumulation of fatty deposits, or plaques, along the inner walls of your blood vessels. These plaques also harbour white blood cells that rather than circulating freely, accumulate in the vessel lining. Over time, these deposits may rupture, triggering blood clot formation that narrows the artery further.

Risk Factors That Increase the Likelihood of a Heart Attack

Keep an eye on these common risk factors:

  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Family history of coronary artery disease
  • Obesity

Crucial Symptoms of a Heart Attack: Know When to Seek Medical Help

A heart attack can strike suddenly and may affect individuals who appear otherwise healthy. Key symptoms to watch for include:

  • Persistent chest pain, feeling like a weight is pressing down
  • Radiating pain to neck, jaw, shoulders, and both arms
  • Excessive sweating
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat

If you encounter these symptoms, consult a healthcare professional immediately.

Diagnostic Tests for Heart Attack

A heart attack diagnosis may involve several tests:

  • Medical history and symptom review
  • Blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Chest x-ray
  • Cardiac catheterization or coronary angiogram

Treatment Options for Coronary Artery Disease

Once the diagnosis confirms that the patient is indeed experiencing a heart attack, the doctor will proceed with an angiogram to determine the exact location of the blocked blood vessel.

This is done with the help of an X-ray. Once the blockage is identified, the doctor will widen the narrowed blood vessel using the angioplasty procedure. This involves inserting a catheter through a blood vessel in the groin or arm and directing it towards the coronary artery.

The doctor will then expand the narrow vessel by inflating a small balloon attached to the end of the catheter. This allows blood to flow more freely past the point where the vessel was blocked. Typically, the doctor will also place a metal stent to prevent the blood vessel from becoming blocked again.

In cases where there are multiple narrowed blood vessels, the doctor may consider coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). This type of bypass surgery involves operating on the blood vessels connected to the heart to create an additional channel that improves blood flow in the constricted area, allowing blood to move towards the heart with less resistance. As a result, more oxygenated blood can reach the heart muscle.

How to Prevent Coronary Artery Disease?

  • Adopt a balanced diet low in fats, salt, and added sugars; incorporate fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Implement stress-reducing techniques.
  • Engage in regular physical activity.