In North American, over 1 million people suffer a heart attack each year. Understanding why and how heart attacks occur is important so that individuals seek treatment early in order to avoid adverse outcomes, such as death. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked long enough that part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies.
In order for the heart to work properly, it requires a constant supply of oxygen rich blood flow. The coronary arteries of the heart are responsible for this blood supply. When these arteries become narrowed, the blood cannot flow properly. Different substances including fatty matter, protein, calcium, and inflammatory cells build up within these arteries and form plaque. When the plaque becomes hard it cracks and platelets come to the area to form a clot around the plaque. If the clot blocks the entire artery, the heart muscle will not get the oxygen that it needs. Within a short period of time, the heart muscle will starve and heart muscle cells will begin to die. This is the most common reason for a heart attack occurring. Another, rarer cause of a heart attack is coronary artery spasm. This occurs when the coronary arteries restrict blood flow because they spasm. While the cause of a heart attack is not always known, heart attacks can occur at rest or during sleep, after or during a sudden increase in physical activity, after or during exercise in extreme weather temperatures, and after sudden physical or emotional stress occurs.
No matter what the cause of the heart attack, you need to listen to your body, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Symptoms of a heart attack can include: pain pressure or fullness in the chest, arm or below the breast bone, radiating pain into the arm, jaw, throat or back, indigestion type symptoms, sweating, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiousness, significant weakness, shortness of breath, and/or rapid or irregular heartbeats. If you think you are suffering heart attack symptoms, call 911 immediately. Early treatment is vital to protect your heart from extensive damage.
If you suffer a heart attack, investing some time in a cardiac care program afterwards will help to ensure you live longer. A cardiac care program will help to rehabilitate your heart and educate you after a heart attack. Components of a cardiac care program include:
– Educating individuals about heart disease and management of the disease, including medication if needed
– Initiating a supervised, individualized exercise programs
– Providing nutritional guidance
– Providing assistance with return to work
– Providing emotional support, guidance and stress management
– Helping to modify heart attack risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, etc.
The goals of cardiac care and rehabilitation are to help an individual live longer as well as to experience a better quality of life after experiencing a heart attack. Additionally, a cardiac care program will help to minimize the need for further medical intervention such as bypass and hopefully prevent a future heart attack.
Surviving a heart attack is the beginning of a long phase of cardiac rehabilitation. Taking adequate time to rehabilitate after a heart attack and modifying factors that put you at risk of suffering a secondary heart attack will help you to live longer and live a healthier life.