According to the WHO (World Health Organization), cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives yearly. The heart beats 2.5million times in an average lifetime. As impressive as that may be, the heart is prone to wear and tear, leading to heart-related problems. If you have suffered from a heart attack or have a family history of heart conditions, Contact Reading Cardiology Associates as soon as possible. Our skilled experts are ready to help. Book a heart evaluation online or call our offices to speak with one of our staff.

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What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is also known as a myocardial infarction (MI). “Myo” means muscle, “cardial” is the heart, and “infarction” refers to tissue death due to a lack of blood supply.  A heart attack happens when something blocks or cuts off the blood flow to your heart. When your heart does not get the oxygen-rich blood it needs to thrive, it causes significant damage to the affected section. 

The affected area begins to die if blood flow is not quickly restored. Blockage results from fat buildup, cholesterol, and other substances in the heart arteries. Plaques are fatty, cholesterol-filled deposits. This process is called atherosclerosis. The buildup of plaque causes the narrowing of the arteries over time. At times, plaque may rupture, leading to the formation of a clot that partially or fully blocks the flow of blood, which can damage parts of the heart muscle. 

The main cause of heart attack is coronary artery disease (CAD). A sudden contraction of a coronary artery may stop blood flow to the heart’s muscles. A heart attack is a serious, life-threatening medical condition, and if you think you are having a heart attack, contact emergency services immediately. The sooner you get medical treatment, restoring blood flow to your heart, the better your chances of minimizing complications and improving success. A heart attack can cause permanent heart damage or death when blood flow is not quickly restored. 

Other causes of a heart attack include trauma (tears or ruptures in the coronary arteries), rare medical conditions, electrolyte imbalances, eating disorders, or obstruction (like from an embolism or air bubble) 

What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

Symptoms vary in duration and order. They might last several days or come and go suddenly. General symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper body pain
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain in your arm, shoulder, or neck
  • Nausea or discomfort in the stomach
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety (similar to a panic attack)
  • Heart palpitations

Men and women have different heart attack symptoms, some more common than others. The most common symptom for both sexes is chest pain. Women describe the pain as squeezing, tightness, or chest pressure, while men describe it as “heavy weight on the chest.” Symptoms in women include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in your gut (similar to indigestion)
  • Insomnia 
  • Discomfort or pain in the neck, shoulder, jaw, or upper back

Am I at Risk of a Heart Attack?

The cardiologists at Reading Cardiology Associates identify various risk factors for heart attack, including:

  • Age (Postmenopausal women or women over age 55 and men over 45)
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar from diabetes
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity 
  • High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia) or triglycerides
  • Family history of heart attacks
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Excessive stress 
  • Sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical activity)
  • History of preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
  • Illegal drugs like cocaine and amphetamines
  • Autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Unhealthy feeding habits like eating trans fats and saturated fats
  • Sleep apnea
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

When caught early, some conditions like obesity, hypertension, high blood sugar, and cholesterol can be managed and treated early by our cardiologists at Reading Cardiology Associates to minimize the risk of heart disease. Changing your lifestyle habits (eating right, regular exercise, stopping smoking) can also help reduce your risk for a heart attack.

What Are the Treatments for a Heart Attack?

If you are experiencing heart attack symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Our cardiologists at Reading Cardiology Associates can treat you after your hospital visit or meet you at the hospital. Your doctor may recommend medication or surgery whose goal is to relieve pain and prevent future attacks. Treatment will use the following methods:

Supplementary oxygen: This helps with trouble breathing or low oxygen levels, along with other heart attack medications. It is administered through a tube that sits below the nose or a mask fitted over the nose and mouth to increase blood oxygen levels and reduce heart strain.

Medications may include:

  • Antiplatelet and anticoagulants, also known as blood thinners
  • Pain relievers like morphine to relieve chest pain
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Beta-blockers
  • Nitroglycerin for pain and causing blood vessels to widen
  • Thrombolytic medications to break down and dissolve clots

Your cardiologist may perform a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedure to restore circulation to the affected heart muscle. The procedure involves inserting a catheter with a tiny balloon into a blood vessel in the upper thigh. The catheter is threaded into the blocked artery in your heart and then inflated to widen the blocked vessel, clear plaque buildup, and release the clot. PCI restores blood flow into the heart.

Your cardiologist may also recommend Coronary artery bypass grafting to replace the blocked or damaged artery with a healthier vein from elsewhere in the body (chest, leg, or arm). Other procedures include a heart transplant when there is permanent tissue death to most of the heart. A pacemaker device may also be implanted beneath the skin to maintain a normal rhythm. 

If you have recently suffered a heart attack, our specialists at Reading Cardiology Associates can formulate a comprehensive treatment plan suited to your unique needs. Contact us or schedule an online appointment today.