Heart Attack (Adapted from the British Heart Foundation)
A heart attack is life-threatening. If you think you or anyone else is having a heart attack, you should phone emergency services for an ambulance immediately.
A heart attack happens when your heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood. This causes damage to your heart muscle.
The signs of a heart attack
Heart attack symptoms vary from one person to another. The most common signs of a heart attack are:
chest pain: tightness, heaviness, pain or a burning feeling in your chest
pain in arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach: for some people, the pain or tightness is severe, while other people just feel uncomfortable
become short of breath
feeling nauseous or vomiting.
What causes a heart attack? Watch this video below:
What is the difference between a Stroke and Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. Without oxygenated blood, the heart muscle begins to die. A stroke is a brain attack, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Stroke happens when a blood vessel feeding the brain gets clogged or bursts.
What is the difference between a Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest?
A heart attack happens when there is a sudden loss of blood flow to a part of your heart muscle. Most heart attacks are caused by coronary heart disease.
A cardiac arrest happens when your heart stops pumping blood around your body. Although a heart attack can result in a cardiac arrest, they are two different things.
Someone who has had a cardiac arrest will be unconscious and won’t be breathing normally. If you see someone having a cardiac arrest, you can increase the person's chances of survival by phoning emergency services or having a trained person perform CPR.
What happens to my heart after a heart attack?
A heart attack always causes some permanent damage to your heart muscle, but the sooner treatment is given, the more muscle it is possible to save.
If a heart attack damages a significant amount of your heart muscle, this can affect the pumping action of your heart. Ask your doctor for feedback on how your heart has been affected.
Heart attack prevention
Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent you from developing coronary heart disease and having a heart attack. Doctors say this all the time: a healthy diet, exercise, cutting out smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation and learning to manage stress are all important in preventing heart attacks, along with many other conditions. If you have had a heart attack you can dramatically reduce the risk of having another heart attack and future heart problems by keeping your heart healthy and taking your medicines.
If you're over 40 you should ask your doctor or nurse for a heart health check to assess your risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.
What about recovery?
A heart attack can be a frightening experience and it can take time to come to terms with what has happened. It's natural to be worried about your recovery and future.
Many people make a full recovery and within a few months are able to return to their normal activities. However some people may find that they are not able to do as much as they previously did.
Talk to your doctor about the changes you can make and about rehabilitation options that will increase your chances of getting back to normal as quickly as possible. Or ask about how you can get help adapting to any changes in your ability, perhaps through counselling or assistive devices.