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Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack): Symptoms, Risk Factors, Causes, Treatment

A myocardial infarction occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is reduced or blocked. The blockage is typically caused by a buildup of cholesterol, fats, and other substances in the arteries of the heart. The fatty cholesterol that causes blockage is known as plaque. A plaque may sometimes rupture and forms a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood and damages a part of the heart muscle. 

Signs and Symptoms of Myocardial Infarction

  • Chest pain that includes tightness, pressure, aching and squeezing
  • Pain and discomfort that spreads to the shoulder, back, neck, teeth, and jaw
  • Pain and discomfort in the upper belly
  • Cold sweat and fatigue
  • Indigestion and heartburn
  • Sudden dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath and nausea

Women may have unusual symptoms of a heart attack such as:

  • Sharp and stabbing pain in the neck
  • Stabbing pain in the back and arm
  • Pain that eventually causes cardiac arrest

It strikes suddenly but many people have warning signs hours, days, or weeks in advance. Chest pain or pressure that persists may be an early warning sign. Seek immediate help if you or someone you know is showing symptoms of an attack. 

Causes of Myocardial Infarction

Coronary artery diseases are typical causes of an attack. In coronary artery disease, one or more of the heart arteries are blocked. This is usually due to cholesterol-containing deposits called plaques. If a plaque breaks open, it can cause a blood clot in the heart. Other causes include:

  • An acute complete blockage of a medium or large heart artery usually means you’ve had an ST elevation myocardial infarction.
  • A partial blockage often means you’ve had a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction but, some people with NSTEMI have a total blockage.
  • Coronary artery spasm. The artery generally has cholesterol plaques or there is early hardening of the vessel due to smoking or other risk factors
  • Spontaneous coronary artery dissection. This life-threatening condition is caused by a tear inside a heart artery.

Risk Factors of Myocardial Infarction

  • Age. Men age 45 and older and women age 55 and older are more likely to have a heart attack than are younger men and women.
  • Tobacco use. This includes smoking and long-term exposure to secondhand smoke. 
  • High blood pressure and obesity. Over time, high blood pressure can damage arteries that lead to the heart. Obesity is linked with high blood pressure, diabetes, high levels of triglycerides and bad cholesterol, and low levels of good cholesterol
  • High cholesterol or triglycerides. A high level of certain blood fats called triglycerides increases heart attack risk.
  • Diabetes. Blood sugar rises when the body doesn’t make a hormone called insulin or can’t use it correctly. High blood sugar increases the risk of a heart attack.
  • Family history of heart attacks. If a family member or parent has an early heart attack you might be at increased risk of the condition.
  • Not enough exercise and unhealthy diet. A lack of physical activity is linked to a higher risk of heart attacks. Regular exercise improves heart health. A diet high in sugars, animal fats, processed foods, trans fats, and salt increases the risk of heart attacks. 
  • Stress. Emotional stress, such as extreme anger, may increase the risk of a heart attack.

Treatment, Management, and Prevention of Myocardial Infarction

Each minute after a heart attack, more heart tissues die. Therefore, it is vital to fix blood flow and oxygen levels. Medications used for attacks are aspirin, clot busters, beta-blockers, morphine, and other recommended drugs. Surgical and other procedures are also essential to treat the blockage that causes the attack. 

Prevention and Management of Myocardial Infarction

  • Follow a healthy lifestyle, avoid smoking and maintain a healthy weight with a proper diet and recommended physical activities. 
  • Managing other health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can increase the risk of heart attacks.
  • Ask your healthcare provider how often you need checkups.
  • Take medications as directed to protect and improve your heart health.

Medication Used for Myocardial Infarction

Atenolol Chlorthalidone. It is one of the most commonly used beta blockers that is used to reduce cardiovascular complications in patients who have post-myocardial infarction. 

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