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Heart attack, medically called myocardial infarction, is a medical emergency in which the blood supply to the heart is interrupted, causing a rapidly developing loss of heart function and loss of consciousness. There are many different causes for the interruption of blood supply, and most parts of the heart can be affected.

Heart attack is a possible complication of diabetes, and many other health problems including hypertension (high blood pressure), smoking, heavy consumption of alcoholic drinks, many types of heart disease, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle. Diabetes enhances the risk of heart attack.

Symptoms[]

The symptoms of heart attack are:

  • Chest pain. Chest pains in heart attacks are usually severe. You may feel that something pokes your chest, or your chest is burning. The pain can also spread to the arms, shoulder, back, and jaw.
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. You may also feel short of breath or have difficulty breathing from a heart attack because the heart no longer functions properly.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and vertigo. You can also feel dizzy or lightheaded from a heart attack.
  • Nausea or vomiting. You can also feel nauseous or sick and even vomit from a heart attack.
  • Numbness of the left side. Rarely, a heart attack can also cause numbness at the left side, possibly due to the heart not functioning properly.
  • Sweating. In addition, you can also feel sweated and go to a cold sweat from a heart attack.
  • Loss of consciousness, including coma. A heart attack can cause loss of consciousness because the heart doesn't function properly. When the heart doesn't function properly, the brain will get starved of blood and oxygen, causing loss of consciousness. Loss of consciousness occur more often in heart attacks than strokes. Loss of consciousness in heart attacks are slightly common. A heart attack can also cause coma, but not usually.

Risk factors[]

There are a number of risk factors contributing to heart attack which include the following major risk factors:

  • Age: Risk of heart attack increases with increasing age.
  • Sex: Other things being normal, both men and women are at equal risk of heart attack. However, women are slightly more prone to get heart attack.
  • Race: Some ethnic groups are likely more prone to heart attack. For example, Americans of African descents are more likely to be more at risk to heart attack largely due to having higher incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Family history: Family history also plays a role as a risk factor - if one or both parents had heart attack, their children are more at risk to get heart attack. Likewise, if a brother or sister had heart attack, the chance of getting heart attack by the other brother and/ or sister increases.
  • High blood pressure: It is a risk factor for heart attack. High blood pressure (hypertension) weakens and damage blood vessels in and around the heart, making them susceptible to atherosclerosis.
  • Cardiovascular disease: Heart attack is a cardiovascular disease.
  • Undesirable levels of blood cholesterol: High levels of "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) increases the risk of atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular diseasec, which in turn increases the risk of heart attack. Further, LDL and other materials build up in the lining of artery walls and harden into plaques. Triglycerides, a blood fat, also increases the risk of atherosclerosis. One or more of these may increase the risk of heart attack. However, high levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (called "good" cholesterol) reduces the risk of atherosclerosis. HDL helps in removing the cholesterol out of the body through liver.
  • Cigarette smoking: It has been proved beyond doubt that cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for heart attack and smokers are more prone to heart attack than nonsmokers. Nicotine found in tobacco forces the heart to work harder - both heart rate and blood pressure increase, the body is deprived of oxygen as carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in blood and supply of oxygen to the tissues of the heart gets reduces. The combined effect increases the risk of heart attack.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is one of the major risk factors for heart attack. Diabetes not only hampers in maintaining a suitable level of blood sugar, it also hampers handling of fat by the body. Persons with diabetes are at a greater risk of high blood pressure, which is itself a risk factor for heart attack. Cumulative effect of diabetes related complications increases the chances of developing atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular complications which are risk factors for heart attack.
  • Obesity: Obesity and even being over weight increase the risk of heart attack. Excess weight is a risk factor for developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other complications, which are risk factors for heart attack.
  • Elevated homocysteine level: Homocysteine, naturally present in the blood build proteins. Persons with elevated having higher levels of homocysteine run a higher risk of heart attack.
  • Birth control pills & hormone therapy: Studies indicate that women who use birth control pills( particularly if they also smoke and are more than 35 years) are at a higher risk of heart attack. Low-dose pills which are currently available carry a lower risk. Similarly, any hormone therapy for menopause increases the risk of heart attack.

Prevention[]

Heart attack is largely preventable, with a change in lifestyle and treatment of the medical problems which may cause the condition. Some of the preventive measures include:

  • Keeping blood pressure within normal levels: High blood pressure or hypertension is a serious risk factor for heart attack, and keeping it within normal ranges is one of the crucial preventive steps to avoid heart attack. Regular exercise, learning to manage stress and actually managing stress, having normal weight, controlling and reducing the intake of sodium and alcohol are some of the factors contributing to better control of high blood pressure. For people who have already suffered heart attack, keeping blood pressure within normal ranges are more important to avoid a subsequent heart attack.
  • Cutting down smoking and eventually stopping smoking: Smoking is also a major contributor to heart attack. Preventing heart attack involves cutting down smoking and ultimately stopping smoking.
  • Exercising moderation in alcohol consumption: Interestingly alcohol is a risk factor as also a preventive measure to avoid heart attack. Excessive drinking increases the risk of heart attack while very moderate drinking is a preventive step.
  • Maintaining a physically active lifestyle, and a healthy body weight: Having a physically active lifestyle and healthy body weight are prevent heart attack.
  • Monitoring blood glucose level: This is an important preventive step as it indicates the level of blood glucose as any indication of high blood glucose level would indicate an immediate requirement to lower the same by use of medicine including insulin and/ or lifestyle changes.

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