The heart needs a constant influx of oxygen and nutrients, just like any other muscle in the body. Two large branched coronary arteries deliver oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. If one of these arteries is suddenly blocked, a part of the heart lacks the necessary oxygen and this causes a condition called “cardiac ischemia”.
If cardiac ischemia lasts too long, the cardiac tissue, which is fed, gradually dies. This results in a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction.
Most heart attacks occur within a few hours, so do not wait for a minute to ask for help if you think a heart attack is starting to happen to you! In some cases there are no symptoms, but most heart attacks produce some kind of chest pain.
Other symptoms of heart attack include:
Shortness of breath
Tension of fainting
The pain of a serious heart attack has been likened by some sufferers with a giant “punch” that surrounds and compresses the heart. If the heart attack is mild, you may misinterpret it with gastroesophageal reflux disease (heartburn). The pain can be continuous or intermittent. Also, women are less likely to experience these classic symptoms of chest pain than men.
Many heart attack victims do not recognize the heart attack warning, which is angina pectoris. This is the chest pain, which – like the heart attack – is caused by ischemia. The difference is mainly: in angina, the blood flow is restored, the pain subsides within a few minutes and the heart does not suffer any permanent damage. In heart arrest, blood flow is drastically reduced or completely blocked, pain lasts longer, and heart muscle dies if First Aid is not produced.
About 25% of all heart attacks occur without prior warning / signs. This is sometimes associated with a phenomenon known as “silent ischaemia”, that is, sporadic interruptions of blood flow to the heart, which, for unknown reasons, are not accompanied by pain but cause damage to the heart tissue. This condition can only be detected by electrocardiography. People with diabetes are more likely to have episodes of silent ischemia.
25% victims of heart attack victims die before they even reach the hospital, while others suffer very serious complications. These include:
Persistent cardiac arrhythmia
Forming blood clots in the legs, or the heart
Aneurysm, or swelling in an impaired cardiac cavity
Recovery from a heart arrest is always a delicate process because any heart attack weakens the heart to some extent. But in general, the patient may have a normal life after the episode. However, depending on the severity of the heart attack, the person may experience:
Heart Failure: The heart does not pump blood well enough to meet the body’s needs)
Arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm
Heart arrest, or sudden cardiac death: The heart suddenly stops striking)
Cardiac shock: The heart has suffered so much damage from the heart attack that the person falls into shock, which can lead to damage to other vital organs such as the kidneys and the liver