Heart Attack


Heart blockage or blockage in the heart is said to have occurred when the body is unable to supply enough oxygen (through blood) to the heart. If the blood flow is blocked, the heart is deprived of oxygen which causes the heart cells to die. This is a symptom of coronary artery disease. It causes chest pains, heart attacks and in severe cases can even lead to death.

Causes

Cholesterol producers causing coronary artery disease

Cholesterol producers causing coronary artery disease
[Source: National Library of Medicine]

Heart blockages are a result of accumulation of fatty material along the walls of coronary arteries. This fatty material or plaque, which is made up of cholesterol and other cells, thickens, hardens (forms calcium deposits), and eventually blocks the arteries.

The slow buildup of plaque may almost block one of your coronary arteries leading to a heart attack in situations when the heart needs more blood or oxygen (e.g. when you are exercising).

Sometimes, the plaque itself develops cracks (fissures) or tears to which blood platelets stick and form a blood clot. A heart attack can occur if this blood clot completely blocks the passage of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.

Certain factors like old age (above 65), male gender, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, fat-rich diet, overweight (by 30%), etc. increase your risk for coronary artery disease.

Symptoms

  • Chest pain usually on the left side
  • Pain radiating to the arms, shoulders, neck, teeth, jaw, belly area, or back
  • Anxiety
  • Palpitations (irregular heart beat or the heart beating too fast)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue and weakness (especially if you are elderly)

Tests

Your doctor may perform one or more of the following tests:

  • Coronary angiography to study how blood flows through your heart
  • Computed Tomography scan (CT scan) to create cross-sectional pictures of the chest
  • Echocardiography to create a moving picture of the heart using sound waves
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to record the electrical activity of the heart
  • Electrophysiology Study (EPS) to determine the details of irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to take pictures of your body using magnetic and radio waves
  • Nuclear ventriculography to show the heart chambers using radioactive materials called tracers

Treatment

Treatment option will depend upon the amount of blockage present. A minor blockage can be treated with the use of stents while a patient suffering from a severe heart blockage may need a heart surgery like a cardiac bypass. Following are some of the treatment options to treat blockages in the coronary artery:

  • Angioplasty: Also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), it is a procedure to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels.
  • Stent placement: A small, metal mesh tube that opens up (expands) inside a coronary artery.
  • Thrombolytic therapy: Usage of drugs to break up the clot.
  • Other medications: To treat and prevent heart attacks.
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG): A cardiac procedure to reroute or bypass blood around clogged arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen to the heart.

Cost of treatment

Depending upon the treatment required the cost can range anywhere from upwards of $20,000 in the US for a stent to approximately $10,000 in India for a bypass surgery. For a free quote for a specific surgery in the US or overseas, contact Healthbase, a US medical tourism facilitator.

If you do not carry sufficient health insurance, the medical costs of treating heart blockages can be financially straining. To learn about cheaper and high quality heart treatment overseas, check out medical tourism @ Healthbase.

Related links

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Preventing a Heart Attack

(Source: Raffles Hospital)

Heart attacks come without warning and strike with deadly force. Whilst the spectrum of treatment modalities has improved over the years, they can sometimes be available too late. Prevention is the greatest cure for heart attacks and you should start today.

 

  1. Be mindful of your diet and your weight
  2. Watch what you eat. You should cut down on the fatty, cholesterol enriched foods and sugar. Eat balanced meals with lots of fruit and vegetables. Drink water instead of sugared drinks. Start on an exercise routine that is easy to maintain. Control your weight through proper nutrition and exercise. Spare your heart the extra load.

  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. If you are a non-smoker, don’t start. If you are a smoker, try to kick this habit. You will do better without it.

  5. Be more active
  6. Put more zest into your life and more spring into your steps. Walk more. Use the stairs instead of taking the lifts. Try going to work on public transport and walking instead of driving once in a while.

  7. Manage your stress; don’t let stress manage you
  8. There are many ways to cope with stress in your life. Learn to manage your time more efficiently and take control of stress instead of letting stress take control of you.

  9. Keep blood pressure, blood cholesterol and diabetes under control
  10. If you are already suffering from hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes, follow the advice of your doctors and take your medications as prescribed. Go for your regular check-ups and follow your doctor’s recommendations faithfully.

  11. Check Early to Save Your Life
    • Don’t put yourself at unnecessary risks. The following tests are conditions that are risk factors for coronary heart disease. You should consider doing these tests on a regular basis. They are simple to do and may save your life.
    • Have your blood pressure checked by your doctor at least once a year.
    • Do a blood cholesterol test at least once in every 5 years, or more frequently if you have a high cholesterol level. Review the results with your doctor and listen to his advice.
    • Have your blood glucose checked at least once a year for diabetes. Diabetes can also be screened for by doing a simple urine dipstick test.
    • If you are particularly at risk of coronary heart disease, you should follow-up with your doctor regularly. Your doctor may advise you to do an ECG (electro-cardiogram) to assess the status of your heart. In some instances, you may need to do an exercise treadmill test to determine the fitness of your cardio-respiratory system.

Remember, early detection of heart disease allows for early treatment, and early treatment could well prolong your life.


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