Heart attacks strike more than a million Americans every year. They cause permanent damage to your heart muscle - once you have one, your heart will never function the same. Recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of heart attacks can be the difference between people getting the help they need versus suffering significant long-term health complications or even death. While heart attacks are scary and serious, most people who receive prompt treatments for their heart attacks are able to live nearly normal lives afterward. Call for emergency medical help if you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from a heart attack. Early detection is key. Read on to learn more about the signs and treatment options for heart attacks.
The symptoms of a heart attack can include pressure or heaviness in the chest or arm. Sometimes this discomfort radiates to the back or throat. You may experience heartburn or indigestion-like sensations. You will likely start to sweat or become a little nauseated and dizzy. You'll feel weak, short of breath, or even anxious. People who have experienced heart attacks commonly report having felt like their heart was beating rapidly or noticeably irregular. The symptoms of a heart attack don't go away within a few second or minutes. They last at least 30 minutes or more and resting does not make them go away. Despite the commonality of these symptoms, some people experience silent myocardial infarctions, meaning they don't experience any symptoms at all. This can happen with anyone, but occurs more commonly in people suffering from diabetes.
If you have a heart attack, the first thing you should do is call 911. Treatment within the first 2 hours after the onset of symptoms can dramatically increase your chance of surviving or at least recovering with the least permanent damage. You may want to take an aspirin or other antiplatelet drug such as Plavix. These will also be given to you in the hospital when you arrive, or even in the ambulance on your way to the hospital. Thrombolytic therapy is also sometimes given to try to dissolve any blood clots in the heart to increase the blood flow and therefore oxygenation within the heart. In many cases, the hospital cardiologist may perform procedures to open your blocked or narrowed arteries such as an angioplasty or installing a stent within your heart. If your heart doesn't seem to recover well enough, a couple days after the heart attack you may undergo a bypass surgery to encourage the restoration of the supply of blood to your heart. In the worst case scenario, the hospital may perform open heart surgery to save your life.
Treatment doesn't end once the actual heart attack is over. After about eight or nine weeks, scar tissue grows in the heart where muscle tissues died. However, the new tissue does not contract and so the heart cannot pump blood as efficiently as before. This can cause many other symptoms and conditions to manifest within the body, as well as increases your risk of having a second heart attack. Doctors must carefully monitor the progress of each heart attack patient to reduce the risk of further heart problems.