What is the Heart Attack?

What is the Heart Attack? A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is an emergency that requires you to act quickly. Because in a heart attack, a coronary vessel closes. Multiple blood vessels in the heart can also be blocked. As a result, the heart muscle is no longer adequately supplied with oxygen. Doctors do not open the blocked vessel quickly and ensure the blood flow again, the heart muscle tissue that is not supplied with blood dies.

According to the Heart Report 2014, mortality has fallen: in acute myocardial infarction by 40 percent, in coronary heart disease (CHD) by 28 percent and in heart failure by 19 percent.

What Are The Causes of a Heart Attack?

The main cause of myocardial infarction is coronary heart disease, or CHD for short. Deposits called plaques form in the coronary arteries. Doctors also refer to this hardening of the arteries as arteriosclerosis. The extent of vascular calcification increases with age – so it is also a natural aging process.

The plaques narrow the diameter of the vessels and ensure that blood flow is restricted. When fine cracks form in the plaques, the body sends platelets to these areas to seal them off. However, if too many platelets collect there, a blood clot can form – the vessel closes completely and a heart attack occurs.


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There are also Risk factors that indirectly increase the risk of myocardial infarction. These include, for example, obesity, high cholesterol levels (hypercholesterolemia), high blood pressure, smoking or diabetes. However, genetic predisposition also plays a role. Heart attacks are common in some families.

What are The Heart Attack Symptoms?

There are certain alarm signals that indicate an impending heart attack. Everyone should know these heart attack symptoms and call an emergency doctor immediately (EMERGENCY CALL) – Because in the event of a heart attack, quick action is required. The longer you wait, the more heart muscle tissue dies.

The Main Heart Attack Symptoms Are:

  • Severe Pain: It lasts at least five minutes and often radiates to other areas of the body, such as the arms, upper abdomen, back (between the shoulder blades), neck and jaw.
  • Massive chest tightness (angina pectoris): Typical are severe chest pain and a feeling of pressure or constriction in the heart area.
  • Severe burning sensation: A sign of a heart attack can also be a strong burning sensation.
  • Sweat of fear with cold, pale skin
  • Nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and pain in the upper abdomen

Attention Women! The Heart Attack Manifests Itself Differently

In women, the symptoms of myocardial infarction are often unspecific – in contrast to men. Such “general” signs of a heart attack can be nausea, shortness of breath, pain in the upper abdomen and vomiting. However, these symptoms can also occur with other diseases, which is why many women do not suspect a heart attack, wait too long and arrive at the clinic much later than men with a myocardial infarction.

  • Caution: Women should always think about a heart attack and call an emergency doctor quickly if these unspecific complaints occur to an extent that has never been experienced before.

How Does the Doctor Recognize a Heart Attack?

Doctors can suspect a heart attack based on the symptoms. The diagnosis of “myocardial infarction” can be confirmed using the following methods:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): In the case of a heart attack, there are typical EKG changes; they give clues as to where in the heart the heart attack took place and what extent it was.
  • Blood Test: In the event of a heart attack, the concentration of certain proteins in the blood is increased.
  • Heart Ultrasound: This allows movements of the heart walls to be recorded. If a heart attack has occurred, the affected part of the heart no longer moves properly.
  • Cardiac Catheter: The method shows which coronary artery is blocked. Doctors can also reopen it right away using a cardiac catheter. The vessel is expanded with a balloon; a small stent – the stent – prevents it from closing again.

How is a Heart Attack Treated?

Heart attack therapy usually begins in the ambulance. The aim is to reopen the closed vessel and ensure blood flow to the heart. Doctors use the following methods:

  • Lysis Therapy: the blood clot is dissolved with medication. The lysis therapy has to start very quickly (usually already in the ambulance); then the chance is greatest to dissolve the thrombus. The effect of the lysis therapy diminishes the longer it has been since the heart attack.
  • Cardiac Catheter: It is inserted into the blocked vessel and expanded with the help of a balloon. In some cases a stent is used for stabilization.
  • Medication: In the event of a heart attack, blood-thinning agents such as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), heparin (anti-coagulants) as well as beta-blockers and ACE-inhibitors (antihypertensive agents) are used.

How Can I Prevent a Heart Attack?

The most important cause of myocardial infarction is coronary heart disease (CHD), which in turn is caused by hardening of the arteries. You can reduce your risk of heart attack if you have the risk factors for arteriosclerosis under control:

  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains and healthy vegetable fats. Meat and animal fats, for example from sausages, should only be consumed in moderation.
  • Try to avoid being overweight and – if you are too fat ( calculate your BMI! ) – lose a few pounds. The best way to do this is through a healthy diet and exercise.
  • If you are a smoker – try to give up.
  • Bring more exercise into your everyday life. Sitting for hours on end is not good for the body. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator or cycle to work.
  • If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol – treat them consistently with medication.
  • Stress also increases the risk of heart attacks. Try to avoid stress or learn a relaxation technique. Examples are yoga, progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson or autogenic training.

What are the Chances of Recovery From a Heart Attack?

The prognosis of a heart attack depends, among other things, on early detection and therapy of the heart attack. But the size of the heart attack also plays a role in the chances of recovery. According to the Heart Foundation Report, around 128,000 people die each year from CHD, including more than 55,000 from heart attacks. Many of the life-threatening courses of CHD could be avoided with timely detection and treatment. Overall, however, mortality from heart attacks has fallen in recent years – by 40 percent, according to the 2014 Heart Report.

With a healthy lifestyle (risk factors), you can do something yourself after a heart attack to prevent another heart attack.

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