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Are You at Risk of a Heart Attack?

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • A heart attack is the heart in a state of weakness rather than the heart stopping beating altogether. It can happen to anyone.
  • High blood pressure, diabetes and thyrotoxicosis are all factors that can cause a heart attack.

When talking about heart attacks, many people think that they occur when the heart stops beating. However, the truth is that a heart attack occurs when the heart is too weak to supply adequate levels of blood to the body’s organs. They can happen to anybody, yet people with pre-existing medical conditions are particularly at risk.

Causes of heart attacks

1. Causes related to the condition of the heart:

  • The most common cause of heart attacks is a shock or sudden heart failure due to constrictions of the coronary arteries which cause the heart tissue to die.
  • Inflammation and infection of heart tissue.
  • Valvular heart disease.
  • Weak cardiac muscle condition.

2. Causes unrelated to the condition of the heart:

  • All of the following conditions can lead to heart attacks: high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, diabetes and thyrotoxicosis.

Symptoms displayed by people experiencing a heart attack

  1. Feeling exhausted and weak.
  2. Swelling of the legs.
  3. Tight chest during the night, unable to sleep and waking up coughing during the night.
  4. Heart spasms and increased heart rate.

Assessing the severity of the heart attack

  1. The patient’s history should be evaluated to find out if they have recently displayed any of the following symptoms: feelings of exhaustion and weakness, being unable to sleep, waking up feeling breathless, being woken up by coughing or swelling in the legs.
  2. Performing a full body checkup:
    • Check whether the veins in the patient’s throat are dilated.
    • Listen to their heart to check for any irregularities.
    • Assess whether or not the patient has water on the lungs by listening to their breathing. There may be liquid on the lungs if there is a crumpling sound when they breathe.
  3. An electrocardiogram (ECG) should be carried out to assess whether the coronary arteries are restricted, the heart itself is enlarged or the patient has an irregular heartbeat. Afterwards, the lungs should be X-rayed to check for blemishes or liquid on the lungs. An ultrasound exam (echocardiography) should also be carried out to determine if the patient has any restricted coronary veins or arteries. These tests will assist the doctor in determining the cause of the patient’s heart attack.

Course of treatment

  1. Prescribing medication:
    • Group 1 medication: diuretics. This medication is for heart attack patients who are admitted to hospital feeling breathless. This group of medicines are designed to reduce swelling and liquid on the lungs.
    • Group 2 medication: beta blockers. This type of medicine reduces the heart rate to stop the heart from working too hard.
    • Group 3 medication: medicines to block the hormones which can damage the heart.
  2. Lifestyle changes:
    • Avoid salty foods, reduce liquid intake, give up drinking alcohol and take good care of your body and overall health.
  3. Fitting a pacemaker:
    • Pacemakers are fitted to either side of the heart and work by assisting the heart to beat. They can also save the patient’s life in the event that they suffer from a heart attack or irregular heartbeat by continuing to pump blood through the body and retaining a heartbeat.
  4. A patient may be placed on a waiting list to receive a heart transplant. However, this course of action should be viewed as a last resort because of the high risk involved with the operation and the difficulty in finding a heart donor.

Basic preventative measures

  • Be sure to attend annual health checkups.
  • Assess yourself for any suspicious signs, such as getting tired easily, swelling in the legs, feelings of tightness in the chest and a fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • Make simple lifestyle changes by exercising more, avoid fatty or salty foods, quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake to a healthy level.
  • Treat any existing health issues like high blood pressure, high blood fat content, diabetes and thyrotoxicosis.

Although heart attacks can be life threatening and are a scary thought for anyone, they can be prevented with the right course of action. Heart attacks can be avoided if people are aware of their health and take care of themselves through regular exercise, getting enough rest and eating healthily. If you recognize any suspicious signs, then you should immediately see a doctor, who will advise you on the best course of action to improve your chances of preventing a heart attack.

Complete a risk assessment for genetic conditions at:


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