'Heart Attack'.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Manila Bulletin, June 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

'Heart Attack'.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)


WHEN the supply of blood to the heart is sharply reduced or cut off, the heart is deprived of needed oxygen. If blood flow is not restored within minutes, portions of the heart muscle begin to die, permanently damaging the heart muscle. This process is referred to as a myocardial infarction, more commonly known as heart attack.

The most common type of heart attack is caused by a thrombosis, or blockage, of one of the coronary arteries by a thrombus, or blood clot. This cuts off the blood supply to the region of the heart muscle served by the artery, damaging or killing the deprived tissue. Heart attack generally occurs only if your coronary arteries are already narrowed by coronary artery disease. If the infarct, or damaged area of the heart, is small, it does not impair the electrical conducting system that regulates heartbeat. Therefore, the attack should not be fatal and you will have a good chance of recovery.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of a heart attack is usually a crushing pain in the center of your chest. The pain may also appear in the neck, jaw, arms, and upper abdomen. A heart attack can come on gradually, preceded by a few weeks of angina (chest pain), but it can also happen without any warning. The pain varies in degree from a feeling of discomfort to antagonizing tightness in the chest. The pain may be continuous, or it may last for only a few minutes, then fades away, and then return. It may come on during exercise or emotional stress or even at rest. Unlike the pain of angina pectoris, the pain of a heart attack does not go away after the exercise or stress ceases.

Other possible symptoms of heart attack are dizziness, shortness of breath, sweating, chills, nausea, and fainting. In a few instances, mainly in older people, there are few if any symptoms. The condition, known as a silent infarct, can be confirmed only by electrocardiography (ECG) and blood enzyme tests.

What are the risks?

Two out of three people who have a heart attack recover, but the attack may be fatal if it interferes with the electrical impulses that regulate your heartbeat or if it severely damages your heart muscle. Most deaths from your heart attack occur within 2 hours of the onset of symptoms. About 10 percent of patients admitted to hospitals with heart attacks go into shock, which can also be fatal. Heart failure may also develop.

After a heart attack, a thrombus, or a clot, may form inside one of the four chambers of the heart. If the thrombus becomes detached (it is called an emboli) and is swept into the circulation, it can travel and cause damage elsewhere in the body. Fortunately, this occurs in only about 5 percent of cases.

Damage caused by heart attack may weaken and stretch one of the walls of the heart chambers. The resultant aneurysm, or ballooning, can lead to complications such as heart failure. There is the added risk that bed rest may cause thrombosis (blood clots) in the veins especially in the legs. …

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