Heart Attack : Causes, Risk Factor, Symptoms and Prevention

A heart attack is the death of a part of heart muscle caused by a loss of blood supply. When an artery supplying the heart muscle is blocked by a blood clot, the blood is usually cut off.

Updated: January 24, 2018

A heart attack is the death of a part of heart muscle caused by a loss of blood supply. When an artery supplying the heart muscle is blocked by a blood clot, the blood is usually cut off. Hence your heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood causing damage to your heart muscle.
Heart attack is also known as acute coronary syndrome, myocardial infarction (MI) or coronary thrombosis.

Causes of Heart Attack:

A constant supply of oxygen-rich blood is required to nourish the heart muscle through coronary arteries. If you have coronary artery disease, those arteries become narrow and blood cannot flow the way it should.
When calcium, proteins, fatty substances and inflammatory cells build up within the arteries it form plaques of different sizes which are hard on the outer side and soft and mushy on the inner side. When the plaque rupture, platelets come to the area, and blood clots form around the plaque. The heart muscle becomes starved for oxygen rich blood if a blood clot totally blocks the artery. Within a short while heart muscle cells will be dead causing permanent damage known as heart attack.
A heart attack can also be caused by a spasm of a coronary artery. The coronary arteries reduces blood supply to the heart muscle during a coronary spasm. This is known as ischemia and may occur at rest, and can even occur in people without significant coronary artery disease.

Risk Factor of Heart Attack:

The following factors are associated with increased risk of a heart attack:

  • Diet
  • Age
  • Angina
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholestrol levels
  • Hypertension
  • Heart Surgery
  • Genetics
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • HIV-positive
  • Previous heart attack
  • Work stress
  • Physical inactivity

A heart attack is caused by a combination of factors rather than a single one.

Symptoms of Heart Attack:

A feeling of pressure, pain, tightness, squeezing, or aching in the chest or arms that spreads to the neck, jaw or back are the sign and symptoms of a heart attack.
Other possible signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Fullness, indigestion or heartburn
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • coughing
  • crushing chest pain
  • dizziness
  • restlessness
  • shortness of breath called dyspnea
  • feeling clammy and sweaty

The symptoms last 30 minutes or longer and are not relieved by rest or changing position during a heart attack.

Symptoms of Heart Attack

Prevention of Heart Attack:

The most effective way to prevent having a heart attack or having another heart attack is to make lifestyle changes. Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent you from developing coronary heart disease and having a heart attack.
This can be done by:

  • eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • avoid smoking
  • Regular exercise
  • Getting enough sleep
  • keeping diabetes under control
  • keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level
  • maintaining blood cholesterol at optimum levels
  • Limiting the alcohol intake
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • avoiding stress where possible

When it comes to your diet you need to be very careful to choose a right one.
Eating an unhealthy diet high in fat will cause more fatty plaques to build up in your arteries. This will result in hardening of the arteries and increase your risk of heart attack.
Avoid foods containing high levels of saturated fat as they increase levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
Foods high in saturated fat include:

  •     Red meat
  •     sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  •     butter
  •     cream
  •     hard cheese
  •     cakes and biscuits
  •     foods that contain coconut or palm oil

Including a small amount of unsaturated fat in your diet will increase the level of good cholesterol and help reduce any blockage in your arteries. Foods high in unsaturated fat include:

  • nuts and seeds
  • sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil
  • oily fish
  • avocados

If you had a heart attack earlier, you can reduce the risk of having another heart attack and future heart problems by keeping your heart healthy and taking your medicines regularly.
If you are over 40 you are recommended to do a heart health check in order to assess your risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.


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