What is a heart attack?
How does my heart work?
Your heart is a specialised and vital muscle that pumps blood throughout your body. Your heart has two pumps that work together in order to pump blood. The blood coming from your organs and tissues, enters the right side of your heart, your heart then pumps the blood to your lungs. Your lungs will then remove any waste carbon dioxide from the blood and refuel it with oxygen.
The other side of your heart, the left side, pumps oxygen-rich blood that has returned from your lungs to all the parts of your body, including the heart itself. This process makes sure that there is a constant supply of oxygen and nourishment in order for your body to effectively function.
The information in the navigation menu above, will take a look into the symptoms and treatment of a heart attack and also covers some further questions you may have about the matter. This article is purely intended as a guideline and not as a professional prognosis or treatment in anyway. Please consult with a doctor or healthcare professional for that.
What happens when someone has a heart attack?
A heart attack, also referred to as myocardial infarction (MI), is when blood is unable to get to your heart. A heart attack is called a myocardial infarction due to ‘myo’ meaning muscle, ‘cardial’ referring to the heart and ‘infarction’ referring to tissue dying due to the lack of blood flowing to it.
When this happens, the heart muscle cannot get the oxygen it needs to function and the cells of the heart may be damaged or die.
The coronary arteries are responsible for supplying the heart with oxygen rich blood, if you suffer from a heart condition such as coronary artery disease, which is also known as coronary heart disease (CHD), your arteries are narrowed and therefore limit the blood flow. This is a leading cause of heart attacks. This disease refers to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, making your once elastic and smooth arteries, more rigid and causing blood flow to be restricted.
The plaque build-up consists of fatty matter, proteins, calcium, inflammatory cells and cholesterol that accumulate in the arteries. These plaques are made up of different sizes, they are soft on the inside and hard on the outside. If the outer shell of the plaque cracks, known as a plaque rupture, then platelets come to the area to help the blood to clot, forming blood clots around the plaque rupture. When this happens, the blood clot can block up the artery and starve the heart muscle of oxygen, this in turn permanently damages the heart and may lead to death – this is a heart attack.
Another less common cause of a heart attack is the result of a spasm of the coronary artery. When a coronary spasm occurs, the coronary arteries are either restricted or spasm intermittently. This spasm effect reduces the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart, and may occur at rest and is known to occur even in people who do not suffer from coronary artery disease.
The damage done to the heart depends on the size of the area affected by the blocked artery as each coronary artery supplies blood to a specific region of the heart muscle. It is also dependent on the time between the injury and receiving treatment.
Should the patient survive the heart attack, the heart muscle will begin to heal quite soon after, and will take about eight weeks to recover. The heart will form new scar tissue to the damaged area, however, this new tissue does not have contracting abilities, therefore the heart’s ability to pump is lessened.
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