A heart attack is a medical emergency when the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. During a heart attack, the heart muscle is damaged or dies due to a lack of oxygen and blood flow. Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, and discomfort in other upper body areas. If you think you may be experiencing a heart attack, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one cause of death globally, accounting for over 17.9 million deaths annually. Of these, 7.4 million deaths are due to coronary artery disease, and more than 6 million are due to stroke. Furthermore, it is estimated that over 20 million people suffer from heart attacks each year.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds and dies from a heart attack every minute. Furthermore, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), one in every four deaths in the US is due to a heart attack. Additionally, the AHA estimates that the total direct and indirect cost of cardiovascular disease in the US is over $316 billion annually.
Overall, heart attacks are a significant cause of death and disability globally. Awareness and risk factor management are vital to reducing heart attack risk and mortality from this condition.
What are the causes of a heart attack?
The most common cause of a heart attack is a blockage in one or more coronary arteries that supply blood flow and oxygen to your heart muscle. This blockage is usually caused by plaque buildup over time, narrowing the artery walls and restricting blood flow into your heart muscle.
Other risk factors for developing plaque include:
- High cholesterol levels
- Physical inactivity
- Family history of cardiovascular disease or stroke
Additionally, certain medications, such as steroids, may increase your risk of having a cardiac event like an MI (myocardial infarction).
It’s essential to recognize any symptoms associated with possible cardiac events like:
- chest pain or tightness
- shortness of breath
- sweating & lightheadedness
How to deal with a heart attack?
If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, it is crucial to immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
If you are with someone having a heart attack, help them sit down and stay calm. If the person is taking any medications, make sure to bring them with you to the hospital. If the person is not allergic to aspirin, have them chew and swallow one while waiting for emergency help.
In a heart attack, a doctor may perform an emergency procedure called angioplasty, which can open narrowed or blocked blood vessels.
Additionally, medications and lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of a heart attack. These include quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels.