With February being American Heart Month, Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Cardiologist Associates encourage the public to understand the warning signs of heart attack.
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than one million people in the United States have heart attacks each year. Many of them don’t act quickly enough to make it to the hospital in time for help. When a heart attack happens, delay in treatment can be deadly.
A heart attack happens if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen. Most heart attacks occur as a result of coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside of the coronary arteries.
“As plaque continues to build over time, it can break open inside of an artery,” stated ARH Cardiologist Syed Bokhari, M.D. ”Once this happens, it causes a blood clot to form on the plaque’s surface. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery.”
According to Bokhari, if the blockage isn’t treated quickly, the portion of heart muscle fed by the artery begins to die. Healthy heart tissue is replaced with scar tissue. This heart damage may not be obvious, or it may cause severe or long-lasting problems.
A less common cause of heart attack is a severe spasm — tightening — of a coronary artery. The spasm cuts off blood flow through the artery. Spasms can occur in coronary arteries that aren’t affected by plague build-up.
“What causes a coronary artery to spasm is not always clear,” said Bokhari. “It may be related to emotional stress or pain, exposure to extreme cold, cigarette smoking or even taking certain types of drugs, such as cocaine.”
Your healthcare provider can determine your risk of heart attack, and can provide information about various tools you can use to protect your heart, including smoking cessation programs, an exercise regimen, nutrition counseling, blood pressure screenings and cholesterol testing.
For a healthcare professional close to you, go online to Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) at www.arh.org or call your local ARH hospital.