The medical term for most known heart attack is Myocardial Infarction. It can also be called myocardial infarction, ischemic heart disease, coronary obstruction, cardiac crisis. In our setting, the most commonly used term is infarction.
But what is myocardial infarction?
Myocardial infarction occurs when the blood supply to a part of the heart muscle is reduced or cut completely. This happens when a coronary artery is contracted or obstructed, partially or totally.
With the total or partial suppression of the supply of blood to the heart muscle, it suffers an irreversible injury and stops functioning, which can lead to sudden death, late death or heart failure with consequences ranging from severe limitations of physical activity to complete recovery.
There are more than 150 thousand cases of AMI in Brazil. Myocardial infarction may also occur in people who have normal coronary arteries. This happens when the coronary arteries have a spasm, contracting violently and also producing a partial or total deficit of blood supply to the heart muscle irrigated by the contracted vessel.
This type of spasm can also occur in vessels already compromised by atherosclerosis.
What are the risk factors?
- Age: Men aged 45 years and over and women over 55 years old are at high risk.
- Smoking: Prolonged exposure to other people’s smoke gives you a high risk of cardiovascular disease.
- High cholesterol levels: If you have high levels of triglycerides and low HDL (high density lipoprotein), you are likely to have a higher risk of heart attack.
- Diabetes, especially if it is not treated.
- Family history of heart attack: If someone in your family has a history of a heart attack, you may also have it.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Not being physically active leads to high levels of bad cholesterol that can cause plaque formation.
- Obesity: If you lose 10% of your body weight, it will also reduce your risk of heart attack.
- Stress: German researchers have found that when you have stress, white blood cell levels increase. They, in turn, increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis and plaque rupture.
- Use of illicit drugs: The use of cocaine or amphetamines can cause coronary artery spasm.
- Pre-eclampsia history: If you had high blood pressure during pregnancy, your risk of having a heart attack is high.
- History of autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
If you have any of these risk factors, I suggest you visit your doctor to keep you protected against heart attacks or any cardiovascular disease.
Signs and symptoms of a heart attack
Some people may have mild symptoms or no symptoms of heart attack – this is called a silent heart attack. It happens mostly in people with diabetes.
To avoid premature death related to heart disease, note other common symptoms of this fatal problem:
- Chest pain or discomfort: This is the most common symptom when having a heart attack. Some people may have a sudden sharp pain, while others may have only mild pain. This can last for a few minutes or a few hours.
- Upper Body Discomfort: You may feel pain or discomfort in the arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw or upper stomach.
- Shortness of breath: Some people may have only this symptom, or it may happen along with chest pain.
- Cold sweat, nausea, vomiting and sudden dizziness: These symptoms are more common among women.
- Unusual tiredness: You may feel tired for unknown reasons and sometimes this can last for several days.
Older people who have one or more of these symptoms usually ignore them, thinking that they are the only signs of aging. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, have someone call an ambulance immediately.
How to avoid a heart attack?
Most cardiovascular disease can be prevented. I recommend these lifestyle practices to help you avoid a heart attack or heart disease:
- Have a healthy diet;
- Exercise regularly;
- Stop smoking;
- Avoid alcohol consumption;
- Feel as little as possible;
- Improve your vitamin D levels;
- Try to walk barefoot;
- Get rid of stress.