Would you know if you or someone else was having a heart attack? Here’s how to spot one, plus some other heart-related issues you should know about...
If you’re not in love with your heart, you should be. It’s one of your hardest working organs, pumping to move 7,000+ litres of blood, plus nutrients, oxygen and water around your body every day. The heart is also vital in maintaining your immune system and conveying the body’s messenger chemicals such as hormones.
So it’s pretty important your heart is in good working order. There are many things that can go wrong with the heart, as well as several tell-tale symptoms. Learning to spot these symptoms just might save a life, possibly your own.
Heart Attack Know How
One of the main things that can go wrong with the heart is something called “myocardial infarction”, known to most of us more simply as a heart attack.
Your heart receives oxygenated blood through a system of blood vessels known as the “coronary arteries”, which are the only source of blood supply to the heart muscle. These blood vessels can become blocked by either a build-up of plaque on the blood vessel wall, a blood clot, compression by a hernia or tumor or by certain drugs which cause the blood vessel to spasm shut. When the blood flow to part of the heart muscle is stopped, that section no longer receives any oxygen, becomes damaged and can even die.
A heart attack, is accompanied by chest pain or discomfort often in the center or left side of the chest which lasts for more than a few minutes and there can be other symptoms as listed below. It is very important to immediately seek medical attention for yourself or anyone else you suspect may be suffering these symptoms…
- Chest pain, possibly spreading to one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath and weakness
- Cold sweat, clamminess, ashen appearance and/or nausea
Heart attacks require immediate medical attention and time is of the essence. Immediate treatment with drugs that dissolve clots and dilate the blood vessels usually accompanies a procedure known as an “angioplasty”, which attempts to unblock or widen the narrowed blood vessels. If a patient survives the heart attack, they may undergo “cardiac bypass surgery” which is when the blood vessels supplying the heart are re-routed to avoid the damaged vessel. In some cases, a heart transplant is the only viable option for long-term survival.
Other Heart Health Issues
When coronary arteries become partially blocked, the blood flow is reduced but not stopped. Although this can have no outward symptoms, it is often accompanied by a feeling of pain, pressure or squeezing in the chest known as angina. This pain can also manifest in the upper abdomen, back, jaw and arms and is often accompanied by breathlessness and weakness. If you notice such symptoms in yourself or others, seek immediate medical attention as angina can be a critical warning sign that a heart attack is imminent.
A heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest, which is when the heart actually stops beating and requires CPR or defibrillation to restart the contractions. Cardiac arrest can be caused by a heart attack however, especially when the damage to the cardiac muscle is extensive.
Heart attacks also differ from the condition known as heart failure, which is when the heart is unable to pump sufficiently to meet the body’s needs, but enough to keep it alive. Like cardiac arrest, heart failure can also be caused by a heart attack, but can also precede one.
Any condition that affects the healthy working order of your heart, including angina and heart attacks is called heart disease. This can include problems with your coronary arteries, heart rhythm, muscles or heart defects.
Your heart requires a lot of energy to keep pumping, and this energy is produced by the mitochondria, which are like tiny power plants within your cells. Due to the heart’s high energy needs, healthy mitochondria are vitally important. The problem is that age, common health conditions and lifestyle factors can affect the cells’ energy production process, which can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction.
Your heart is one of the hardest working organs in your body, which means it has high energy needs.
This energy comes from within your heart cells and is generated by the mitochondria – your cells’ power factory.
Because of these high energy needs, heart muscle cells have one of the highest concentrations of mitochondria in the human body, up to 5,000 per cell. So as you can imagine, it’s important they’re in good working order.