A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), occurs when the flow of blood to the heart muscle is blocked and the heart cannot get enough oxygen.
Over time, fatty deposits called plaque can build up on the wall of blood vessels, restricting the flow of blood. Doctors refer to this process as atherosclerosis. Sometimes, a blood clot catches on the plaque that already partially blocks the blood vessel and causes a full blockage. If the oxygen supply is reduced in the blocked artery for a prolonged period of time, the resultant heart attack can cause irreversible damage and scarring to the heart.
Learn the symptoms of a heart attack
It is important to be aware of early warning signs. Some people notice changes in their body for up to a month before having a heart attack. You may experience discomfort in your chest, which is frequently mistaken for heartburn. Discomfort caused by a blockage is called angina. The pain can radiate to the shoulders, back, arms and jaw. Because the blood cannot reach the heart and other regions of the body as easily, you may feel tired, weak and short of breath.
Symptoms are usually brought on by physical exertion, stress or intense emotions. Most heart attacks involve an uncomfortable sensation in the center of the chest: pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Some people describe feeling like there is an elephant on their chest. Other symptoms include breaking out in a cold sweat and other fever-like symptoms.
Heart attack can present differently in woman. Rather than chest pain, some women become nauseous, lightheaded or faint, and describe feelings of anxiety or doom.
Step by Step Guide
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, follow the below instructions:
- If people are nearby, call out for help
- Call emergency services immediately and request for an ambulance
- Sit down and rest while you wait for the ambulance
- If you are not allergic and if there is one nearby, chew and swallow one adult aspirin tablet (300 mg)
- If you are alone, do not get up to look for the aspirin. This can put extra strain on your heart
- If someone is with you, and aspirin is not nearby, they should stay with you rather than leaving to look for some.
Heart attacks are a leading cause of death globally, but recognizing and quickly getting treatment can improve the chances of a full recovery. If you are worried that you or someone else is experiencing a heart attack, contact your local emergency services as soon as possible.