But if you are feeling very sad or hopeless, ask your doctor about treatment. Getting treatment for depression may help you recover from a heart attack. Heart attacks are usually the result of heart disease, so taking steps to delay or reverse coronary artery disease can help prevent a heart attack. Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women, so these steps are important for everyone.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health. Learning about heart attack and unstable angina:. A heart attack or unstable angina is caused by sudden narrowing or blockage of a coronary artery. This blockage keeps blood and oxygen from getting to the heart. A heart attack or unstable angina can happen when plaque in the coronary artery breaks open or ruptures.
Blood then clots in the artery and blocks blood flow. With a heart attack, lack of blood flow causes the heart's muscle cells to start to die. With unstable angina, the blood flow is not completely blocked by the blood clot. But the blood clot can quickly grow and block the artery. Atherosclerosis leads to plaque buildup in the coronary arteries, called coronary artery disease.
1. Don’t smoke
A stent in a coronary artery can also become blocked and cause a heart attack. The stent might become narrow again if scar tissue grows after the stent is placed. And a blood clot could get stuck in the stent and block blood flow to the heart. In most cases, there are no clear reasons why heart attacks occur when they do.
But sometimes your body releases adrenaline and other hormones into the bloodstream in response to intense emotions such as anger, fear, and the "fight or flight" impulse. Heavy physical exercise, emotional stress, lack of sleep, and overeating can also trigger this response. Adrenaline increases blood pressure and heart rate and can cause coronary arteries to constrict, which may cause an unstable plaque to rupture.
In rare cases, the coronary artery spasms and contracts, causing heart attack symptoms. If severe, the spasm can completely block blood flow and cause a heart attack. Most of the time in these cases, atherosclerosis is also involved, although sometimes the arteries are not narrowed. The spasms can be caused by smoking, cocaine use, cold weather, an electrolyte imbalance, and other things.
But in many cases, it is not known what triggers the spasm. Another rare cause of heart attack can be a sudden tear in the coronary artery , or spontaneous coronary artery dissection. In this case, the coronary artery tears without a known cause. Call or other emergency services immediately if you think you are having a heart attack. If you typically use nitroglycerin to relieve angina and if one dose of nitroglycerin has not relieved your symptoms within 5 minutes, call Do not wait to call for help. Unstable angina symptoms are similar to a heart attack. Call or other emergency services immediately if you think you are having a heart attack or unstable angina.
People who have unstable angina often describe their symptoms as:. The symptoms of stable angina are different from those of unstable angina. Stable angina occurs at predictable times with a specific amount of exertion or activity and may continue without much change for years. It is relieved by rest or nitrates nitroglycerin and usually lasts less than 5 minutes. Women are more likely than men to delay seeking help for a possible heart attack. Women delay for many reasons, like not being sure it is a heart attack or not wanting to bother others.
But it is better to be safe than sorry. If you have symptoms of a possible heart attack, call for help. When you get to the hospital, don't be afraid to speak up for what you need. To get the tests and care that you need, be sure your doctors know that you think you might be having a heart attack. For more information, see Women and Coronary Artery Disease. People who are having a heart attack often describe their chest pain in various ways. The pain:. It is possible to have a "silent heart attack" without any symptoms, but this is rare.
Coronary artery disease CAD is the major cause of heart attacks. So the more risk factors you have for CAD, the greater your risk for unstable angina or a heart attack. The main risks for CAD are:. Women have unique risk factors for heart disease, including hormone therapy and pregnancy-related problems. These things can raise a woman's risk for a heart attack or stroke. See the topic Women and Coronary Artery Disease for more information on risk, symptoms, and prevention of heart disease. A type of protein in your blood may help find your risk of a heart attack.
This protein is called a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein hs-CRP. It is found with a C-reactive protein CRP blood test. This test may help find your risk for a heart attack, especially when it is considered along with other risk factors such as cholesterol, age, blood pressure, and smoking. But the connection between high CRP levels and heart disease risk is not understood very well. Most non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs , which are used to relieve pain and fever and reduce swelling and inflammation, may increase the risk of heart attack. People who are older than 65 or who have existing heart, stomach, or intestinal disease are more likely to have problems.
Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. But taking aspirin isn't right for everyone, because it can cause serious bleeding. Talk to your doctor before you start taking aspirin every day. For information on how to prevent a heart attack, see the Prevention section of this topic.
Do not wait if you think you are having a heart attack. Getting help fast can save your life. Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out. Call or other emergency services immediately if you have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:. After you call , the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself. Women's symptoms. By calling and taking an ambulance to the hospital, you may be able to start treatment before you arrive at the hospital.
If any complications occur along the way, ambulance personnel are trained to evaluate and treat them.
If an ambulance is not readily available, have someone else drive you to the emergency room. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. If you witness a person become unconscious, call or other emergency services and start CPR cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The emergency operator can coach you on how to perform CPR. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics can start treatment in an ambulance.
In larger cities and towns, you will be evaluated and treated by an emergency medicine specialist in the emergency room. In smaller communities, you may be evaluated by a family doctor. For ongoing care, the emergency medicine specialist will refer you to a cardiologist. In smaller communities, your family doctor often will provide continuing care.
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If you need surgery, you will be referred to a cardiovascular surgeon. After you call for a heart attack, paramedics will quickly assess your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. They also will place electrodes on your chest for an electrocardiogram EKG, ECG to check your heart's electrical activity. When you arrive at the hospital, the emergency room doctor will take your history and do a physical examination, and a more complete ECG will be done. A technician will draw blood to test for cardiac enzymes , which are released into the bloodstream when heart cells die.
If your tests show that you are at risk of having or are having a heart attack, your doctor will probably recommend that you have cardiac catheterization. The doctor can then see whether your coronary arteries are blocked and how your heart functions. If an artery appears blocked, angioplasty —a procedure to open up clogged arteries—may be done during the catheterization. Or you will be referred to a cardiovascular surgeon for coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Some treatments and tests, such as cardiac catheterization, may be available only at regional medical centres.
The tests and treatment your doctor chooses may depend on how close you are to a regional centre and the time it would take to transport you to the centre for treatment. If your tests do not clearly show a heart attack or unstable angina and you do not have other risk factors such as a previous heart attack , you will probably have other tests. From 2 to 3 days after a heart attack or after being admitted to the hospital for unstable angina, you may have more tests. Even though you may have had some of these tests while you were in the emergency room, you may have some of them again.
Doctors use these tests to see how well your heart is working and to find out whether undamaged areas of the heart are still receiving enough blood flow. Emergency treatment gets blood flowing back to the heart. This treatment is similar for unstable angina and heart attack.
Symptoms of a silent heart attack.
Treatment begins in the ambulance and emergency room. The goal of your health care team will be to prevent permanent heart muscle damage by restoring blood flow to your heart as quickly as possible. Treatment includes:.
You also will receive medicines to stop blood clots. These are given to prevent blood clots from getting bigger so blood can flow to the heart.
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Some medicines will break up blood clots to increase blood flow. You might be given:. Doctors try to do angioplasty as soon as possible after a heart attack. Angioplasty might be done for unstable angina, especially if there is a high risk of a heart attack. Angioplasty gets blood flowing to the heart. It opens a coronary artery that was narrowed or blocked during the heart attack. But angioplasty is not available in all hospitals.
Sometimes an ambulance will take a person to a hospital that provides angioplasty, even if that hospital is farther away. If a person is at a hospital that does not do angioplasty, he or she might be moved to another hospital where angioplasty is available. If you are treated at a hospital that has proper equipment and staff, you may be taken to the cardiac catheterization lab. You will have cardiac catheterization , also called a coronary angiogram.
Your doctor will check your coronary arteries to see if angioplasty is right for you. Bypass surgery. If angioplasty is not right for you, emergency coronary artery bypass surgery may be done. For example, bypass surgery might be a better option because of the location of the blockage or because of numerous blockages. Some treatments and tests, such as angioplasty, cardiac catheterization, and bypass surgery may be available only at certain regional medical centres.
After a heart attack, you will stay in the hospital for at least a few days. Your doctors and nurses will watch you closely. They will check your heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, and medicines to make sure you don't have serious complications. Your doctors will start you on medicines that lower your risk of having another heart attack or having complications and that help you live longer after your heart attack.
You may have already been taking some of these medicines. They include:. You will take these medicines for a long time, maybe the rest of your life. After you go home from the hospital, take all of your medicines correctly. Cardiac rehabilitation might be started in the hospital or soon after you go home.
It's an important part of your recovery after a heart attack. Cardiac rehab teaches you how to be more active and make lifestyle changes that can lead to a stronger heart and better health. Cardiac rehab can help you feel better and reduce your risk of future heart problems.
If you don't do a cardiac rehab program, you will still need to learn about lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of another heart attack. These changes include quitting smoking, eating heart-healthy foods, and being active. Quitting smoking is part of cardiac rehab. Medicines and counselling can help you quit for good. People who continue to smoke after a heart attack are much more likely than non-smokers to have another heart attack.
When a person quits, the risk of another heart attack decreases a lot in the first year after stopping smoking. Your doctor will want to closely watch your health after a heart attack. Be sure to keep all your appointments. Tell your doctor about any changes in your condition, such as changes in chest pain, weight gain or loss, shortness of breath with or without exercise, and feelings of depression. You can help prevent a heart attack by taking steps that slow or prevent coronary artery disease —the main risk factor for a heart attack.
To reduce your risk of a heart attack, you will need to control your cholesterol and manage your blood pressure. Quitting smoking, changing the way you eat, and getting more exercise can help. But if these things don't work, you may also need to take medicines. Aspirin can help certain people lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke. You and your doctor can decide if aspirin is a good choice for you based on your risk of a heart attack and stroke and your risk of serious bleeding.
If you have a low risk of a heart attack and stroke, the benefits of aspirin probably won't outweigh the risk of bleeding. After you've had a heart attack, your biggest concern will probably be that you could have another one. You can help lower your risk of another heart attack by joining a cardiac rehabilitation rehab program and taking your medicines.
You might have started cardiac rehab in the hospital or soon after you got home. In cardiac rehab, you will get education and support that help you make new, healthy habits, such as eating right and getting more exercise. For more information on lifestyle changes, see Life After a Heart Attack. After having a heart attack, take all of your medicines correctly. For more information, see Medications.
Smoking just sped it up. It happened while I was playing basketball with some guys from work. I started getting pains in my chest. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor. Read more about Alan and how he learned to cope after a heart attack. Coming home after a heart attack may be unsettling. Your hospital stay may have seemed too short. You may be nervous about being home without doctors and nurses after being so closely watched in the hospital. But you have had tests that tell your doctor that it is safe for you to return home. Now that you're home, you can take steps to live a healthy lifestyle to reduce the chance of having another heart attack.
Cardiac rehabilitation rehab teaches you how to be more active and make lifestyle changes that can lead to a stronger heart and better health. For more information on lifestyle changes, see Prevention. Making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your chance of another heart attack.
Quitting smoking, eating heart-healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and staying at a healthy weight are important steps you can take. For more information on how to make healthy lifestyle changes, see Prevention. Tell your doctor about any angina symptoms you have after a heart attack.
Many people have stable angina that can be relieved with rest or nitroglycerin. Depression and heart disease are linked. People who have heart disease are more likely to get depressed. And if you have both depression and heart disease, you may not stay as healthy as possible. This can make depression and heart disease worse. If you think you may have depression, talk to your doctor. Stress and anger can also hurt your heart. They might make your symptoms worse.
Try different ways to reduce stress , such as exercise, deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. You can resume sexual activity after a heart attack when you are healthy and feel ready for it. You could be ready if you can do mild or moderate activity , like brisk walking, without having angina symptoms. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Your doctor can help you know if your heart is healthy enough for sex. If you take a nitrate, like nitroglycerin, do not take erection-enhancing medicines. Combining a nitrate with one of these medicines can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.
Heart attack: Causes, symptoms, and treatments
Whether you are recovering from a heart attack or are changing your lifestyle so you can avoid another one, emotional support from friends and family is important. It's important for a woman to be able to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and react quickly by calling It's important for men to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, remain calm and quickly call Under no circumstances should men try to "tough it out. Heart Attack. Helpful Resources. Related Fact Sheets. Related Conditions. Heart attacks happen when the heart's blood supply is suddenly cut off, making immediate care critical.
Learn more about Heart Attack. A common sleep disorder can increase your risk of heart attack. Learn about Sleep Apnea. Your email has been sent. Please ensure that your email address is correct. Your doctor may also prescribe beta-blockers to help. Too much bad cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and another heart attack. Your doctor may prescribe statins to lower the level of LDL. Regular exercise and eating a heart-healthy diet can also play a role in lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are related to insulin hormone levels. Both types of diabetes increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you have diabetes, managing it with medication, exercise, and dietary changes is vital to reducing the chance of a second heart attack. Whether you walk, jog, run, cycle, swim, or dance, regular cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart, and lowers your LDL level and blood pressure.
It also helps relieve stress, boost your energy level, and helps with weight management. Carrying extra weight requires your heart to work harder and less efficiently. Even if you have no other risk factors, excess body fat puts you at higher risk for a heart attack. They can recommend a weight loss program or treatment plan to help you change unhealthy behaviors. A diet that is high in saturated and trans fats can cause plaque to build up in your arteries.