Heart Attack: Symptoms, Treatments & Precautions
With the advent of modern lifestyles and changes in dietary habits, heart attacks have become a very common condition these days. As per reports, in one hour, 1 out of every 4 individuals the world over gets a heart attack. Though deadly, one can survive heart attacks if immediate help or first aid is provided at the time of inception.
Signs & Symptoms
A heart attack happens due to a lack of oxygen as a result of some kind of blockage. The major cause of heart attack remains Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). In the case of CHD, fats and cholesterol get deposited or plague the arterial walls and make them narrow, eventually leading to obstruction in the blood flow. Regular use of drugs and cannabis such as cocaine can also cause heart attacks.
However, the condition can be prevented by early identification. For this, we have certain signs and symptoms that may be indicative or act as a cautionary alarm for a heart attack. These include:
- Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, tightness, squeezing, or pain in the chest, arm or below the breastbone
- Discomfort that goes into the back, jaw, throat, or arm
- Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (which may feel like heartburn)
- Sweating, upset stomach, vomiting, or dizziness
- Severe weakness, anxiety, fatigue, or shortness of breath
- Fast or uneven heartbeat
- Unusual fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Discomfort in neck, shoulder, or upper back
Read Also: Heart Disease In Children
At times, a heart attack may occur without any of these prior symptoms. Such heart attacks are known as Silent Heart Attacks. During this type of heart attack, the patient experiences no symptoms and shows no signs of discomfort apart from feeling unusually tired or short of breath, though he/she may show one or more of the signs associated with heart attacks as in women. It is more so common in people of old age and women.
Immediate Steps to Take if Someone is Having a Heart Attack
- If any of the above symptoms are being experienced by anyone, immediate help should be provided. Call the ambulance or paramedics immediately at the place of the incident.
- Do not leave the person unattended until the ambulance arrives or if alone, ask someone to be with you.
- If in a bookstore, library, or school, ask someone to find a defibrillator (heart attack revival machine). They are easy and handy to use with the aid of an instruction manual.
- Taking aspirin can also help in controlling the condition by slowing down the blood’s ability to clot.
- Once the ambulance arrives, the person should be immediately taken to the hospital where things are taken care of.
- It is advised to take the prescribed chest pain medications such as nitrates, beta-blockers, atenolol, etc. while still waiting for an ambulance.
- If indoors, make sure that the door is unlocked so that the paramedics find you easily.
- You can also try lying down as this will relieve the pressure on the heart while you wait for medical help.
- Also, make sure to loosen any tight clothing such as ties or belts to breathe easily.
Though it is not possible to stop a heart attack, one can reduce its damage or increase the chances of survival by following the above-discussed actions.
There are also some widespread misconceptions about the “fast ways” to prevent heart attacks. However, as per experts, there is misinformation; there is no such thing as a fast way to prevent heart attacks. Some of these are:
Cough CPR: It is a widely held belief that coughing can lower the chances of getting a heart attack by raising blood pressure and increasing the supply of blood to the brain. It is also believed that a Cough CPR can set the heartbeat to normal. However, we at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad strictly do not endorse this treatment.
Water & Cayenne Pepper: It is suggested that drinking a glass of water with a spoonful of cayenne pepper can increase the heart rate by pumping the blood. However, there is no proper evidence to support the effectiveness of this treatment.
Diagnosis & Treatments
Upon reaching the hospital, the patient will be taken to the Intensive Care Unit and go through several tests to determine the severity of the condition such as electrocardiography, blood tests to measure the heart damage, and various other imaging tests such as a chest X-ray and coronary angiography to locate the blockages in the heart. Depending on the severity of the attack and the diagnosis, the doctors will perform one out of the following treatments:
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI): In this procedure, cardiologists (heart doctors) use a thin tube with a balloon on the end to open up the blocked or narrowed arteries. This tube is then put into the heart through the blood vessels in the wrist. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to widen the artery.
Stent: In this, a small metal tube or stent is put inside the artery to keep it open.
Thrombolytic Medicine: These blood thinners work by dissolving blood clots in the arteries by providing relief.
Read Also: Beating Heart Bypass Surgery
Instead of focusing on immediate actions, one should take prior precautions to keep the heart healthy, which will eventually lower your chances of a heart attack.
- Take a healthy and well-balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, legumes, lean animal protein, fish, etc. which will help you in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Refrain from eating processed food, meats, refined carbohydrates, and sweetened drinks.
- Exercise daily for at least 20-30 minutes to maintain your heart health.
- Obesity being the mother of infinite diseases, it is important to maintain a moderate weight and manage your BMI to keep yourself healthy.
- Smoking and drinking put a person at a higher risk of cardiac diseases like heart attacks and strokes. So, quitting them is a step closer to a healthy life.
- Managing blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc. is another way to prevent heart attacks.
- Getting proper sleep helps in keeping a person healthy and away from several diseases. So, get good sleep.
- Drinking plenty of water helps in keeping the body hydrated thus, reducing the chances of getting a heart attack. Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily.
Meet the Best Doctors for Heart Attacks
Dr. Alok Sehgal is the best cardiologist with 20+ years of experience and specializes in clinical cardiology, cardiac intervention, and intravascular imaging. Proficient in diverse diagnostic and interventional procedures.
Dr. Yatin Arora is a Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgery Consultant at Yashoda Hospital and Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad. Dr. Arora has completed M.Ch. (CTVS) at AIIMS, Delhi. Experienced in surgeries, teaching, and publications in medical journals.
Dr. Ankur Agrawal is a skilled Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgeon at Yashoda Hospital and Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad. Dr. Agrawal specializes in diverse cardiac, thoracic, and vascular surgeries.