A sudden instance of abnormal heart function. A heart attack is a life-threatening event. It most often affects adults over 40. It is more common in men, but the incidence is rising for women.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Chest pain or "heavy, squeezing, or crushing" feeling in the chest.
Pain that radiates from the midchest over the breast bone to the jaw, neck, either arm, the area between the shoulder blades, or upper abdomen (sometimes).
Feeling of impending doom.
Shortness of breath.
Nausea and vomiting.
A heart attack occurs when the supply of blood and oxygen to an area of heart muscle is blocked. This is usually due to a blood clot in a coronary artery. The blockage leads to an irregular heartbeat or rhythm that causes a severe decrease in heart function. When the heart actually stops, it is called cardiac arrest.
RISK INCREASES WITH
Men over age 45 and women over age 55.
Family history of early heart disease.
Personal history of coronary artery disease (CAD).
High LDL cholesterol levels or low HDL cholesterol.
High blood pressure.
Sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical activity).
Exercise daily. Maintain a healthy weight. Eat a healthy diet. Don't smoke. Get medical care for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
The amount of damage from a heart attack depends on how much of the heart is affected, how soon treatment begins, and other factors. Survivors should allow 4 to 8 weeks for recovery. Repeat heart attacks are common.
Irregular heart rhythms.
Congestive heart failure.
Pericarditis (heart lining inflammation).
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
If you have any symptoms of a heart attack, seek medical help right away. Don't drive yourself.
If you suspect heart attack symptoms in someone, call 9-1-1 for help.
Diagnosis and treatment of a heart attack begins when emergency medical personnel arrive after you call 9-1-1. In the hospital emergency room, health care providers will work fast to find out if you are having or have had a heart attack and to give you treatment.
If you are having a heart attack, treatment is done to restore the blood flow to the heart and to monitor your vital signs to detect and treat complications.
Long-term treatment after a heart attack may include cardiac rehabilitation, checkups and tests, lifestyle changes (such as stopping smoking or weight loss), and drug therapy.
To learn more: American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231; (800) 242-8721; website: www.americanheart.org.
Drugs to dissolve and prevent blood clots may be used for emergency care.
After a heart attack, drugs may be prescribed to help the heart function, treat high blood pressure, prevent clots, or to lower cholesterol levels.
Resume your normal activities gradually during recovery. An exercise program will usually be recommended.
You will be advised about when to return to work, resume sexual relations, or drive a car.
After a heart attack, eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet.
Maintain ideal weight. Start a reducing diet if overweight.
NOTIFY OUR OFFICE IF
You or a family member has symptoms of a heart attack. This is a life-threatening emergency!