Heart attack, medically referred to as myocardial infarction, is a condition that occurs when the heart does not receive enough blood flow for a long period of time due to a damaged or dead heart muscle. It is for a reason that, the reduced flow of blood in the coronary triggers imbalanced supply. It is estimated that about 1.5 million of Americans suffer from a heart attack every year (Lilly, 2012). When the normal blood flow to the heart decreases the subsequent effect is a blockage of thrombus in a coronary artery. Other causes may be spasm or embolism in the coronary artery, and sometimes when an individual experiences sudden drop in blood pressure during surgery. Some medical researchers have also identified other factors that can lead to heart attack. For example, it was established that when the heart needs more oxygen than the normal supply, the disparity in demand and supply can cause an increased chances of heart attack (Anderson, 2011). Some of the common habits that are known to cause excessive demand in oxygen supply are drug (cocaine) or cigarette abuse, heavy exertion, increased catecholamine levels, stressful events, and sudden rise in blood pressure. Myocardial infarction mainly affects the wall of the heart, which is made up of three layers of cardiac tissue. Myocardium is actually the central striated muscle layer and also the thickest layer of the heart wall (Lilly, 2012). When myocardial infarction occurs, it is the myocardium that gets affected.
The effect of myocardial infarction is adverse and mostly lead to sudden death. This is because it limits the ability of the heart to function properly. In some instances, depending on which coronary artery is affected, damage may be extended up to the conduction system, which may also lead to decreased cardiac output and arrhythmias (Anderson, 2011). Sometimes the risk may not be noticed as sometimes it strikes at the most unlikely times such as when someone is resting, during physical activity, when very active in cold weather, and when someone undergoes a severe stress.
Signs and Symptoms
The pain that results from myocardial infarction is caused when myocardial tissue dies. Although, the pain usually begins at the chest, it may also extend to one’s neck, back, jaws or the left arm. The pain may last for some few minutes or may as well disappear for a moment and recur. Other common signs and symptoms are associated with the patient exhibiting dyspnea, fainting, hypertension, anxiety, light headedness, nausea, cough and heavy sweating. The increased heart beat has also been identified to be a sign of a possible heart attack. This irregularity may affect the normal blood flow of the body in terms of blood balance between the heart and other parts of the body. The morbidity and mortality rate that comes as a result of heart attack are minimized when the patient or someone close to the patient identifies the symptoms early (Anderson, 2011). This will prompt an emergency approach to the treatment which is likely to save the patient from the potential danger.
Treatment/Procedure & Medication
The first approach to attending to a heart attack patient is to rush the patient to hospital. In this part, the healthcare professional must identify the type of myocardial infarction in order to know the type of treatment to be administered. The main goal in the first attendance to the patient is to reduce pain, restore oxygen balance between the demand and supply, prevent and treat any form of complication that may be associated with the process. In the emergency room, the patient is put under heart monitor for the healthcare professionals to understand the nature of the patient’s heart beat. The patient is also put on oxygen so as to relieve your heart of hard work.
The treatment of heart attack may vary depending on the severity. However, the main goal of the treatment process is to open up the blocked artery with the aim of restoring the blood flow towards that heart and other affected muscles (Anderson, 2011). This approach, referred by doctors as reperfusion, can also prevent any further damage and minimize the possibility of future heart attacks.
The opening of the artery helps in restoring the normal blood flow, which is the first step in halting the heart attack. The patient subsequently becomes free of pain. Heart specialists suggest that heart attack patient should undergo reperfusion within the first 6 hours of its occurrence. Antiplatelet medications also reduce the likelihood platelet to clot. The medication is likely to prevent any artery blockage in the future. In addition to antiplatelet, a blood vessel dilator such as nitroglycerin may also be used concurrently to help relax the affected muscles. ACE inhibitor is another form vasodilator, which helps the patients in the process of healing heart muscle (Anderson, 2011). This is carried out by blocking the adrenaline hormones. The process helps the heart to beat slowly down, consequently reducing the heart muscle damage.
Some of the recommendations likely to be given to someone who has suffered a heart attack range from preventive to treatment measures. A patient may be advised to desist from smoking, change diet and lifestyle, dress warmly, reduce vigorous physical activities and follow all medical prescription as advised by a physician. Ideally, these measures are meant to minimize the chances of experiencing another heart attack. In case specific causes are identified, such as high level of cholesterol in the blood which causes high blood pressure, than a medic may recommend specific treatment process.
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