A heart attack occurs as a result of blockages of coronary arteries, the arteries which supply blood to the heart muscle.
A blocked coronary artery leads to inadequate blood supply to the heart muscle which leads to heart muscle damage. Blockages in the coronary arteries develop gradually over time as a result of build-up of fat and cholesterol inside the artery. Clot can also form in the artery, and plays a role in blocking the artery and causing a heart attack.
Staff Specialist Interventional Cardiologist Dr Daniel Robaei said seeking medical attention quickly at the first signs of a heart attack is the best course of action. “This will allow the blockage to be alleviated as quickly as possible, restoring blood supply to the heart muscle and limiting the amount of damage.”
“The most common symptoms of a heart attack are a discomfort in the chest, usually a feeling of heaviness, tightness, squeezing or ache. Discomfort can sometimes, but not always, also occur in the neck or jaw, as well as the left arm,” he explains.
“Some individuals do not experience chest discomfort but may only have shortness of breath, although this is less common.”
“Warning signs of an impending heart attack may include experiencing chest discomfort with exertion which then resolves with rest, or becoming more short of breath with exertion than is usual.”
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It’s important to seek medical help immediately if you are experiencing symptoms.
“If concerned that you may be having a heart attack it is important to remain calm but act quickly. Seeking medical attention quickly may allow prompt treatment to restore blood flow in the coronary arteries and limit the damage to heart muscle. Quick action can be life-saving.
“Call 000 for an ambulance. Do not drive yourself. A heart attack can cause dangerous abnormalities of the heart beat which can cause beating of the heart to stop. Ambulance officers can monitor for and treat these abnormal rhythms. On the contrary driving places yourself and others in danger, as you may be at risk of losing consciousness behind the wheel,” said Dr Robaei.
The risk of a heart attack can be reduced through annual screening for treatable risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
“This is particularly important since individuals who have these risk factors usually feel well and often do not have any symptoms to indicate that they may be at increased risk of heart disease.”
A heart check can allow detection of narrowings in the coronary arteries before these lead to a heart attack. Detection will allow for treatment to reduce the likelihood of these narrowings causing a heart attack.