Heart attack is when there is a blockage of the coronary artery, which is the blood vessel that is responsible for delivering blood and oxygen to the heart.1, 2 This leads to ischaemia (lack of oxygen and nutrients) and eventually damage and death of the heart tissue.1, 2
Sequence of Steps Leading up to a Heart Attack1, 2
- Blood vessel gets clogged up with deposits of cholesterol, and these deposits are called plaques. Take note that these deposits are formed in between the blood vessel lining, not inside the lumen of the blood vessel. [Picture]
- Due to the compromised structure of the blood vessel and other factors, the plaque ruptures, which causes a clot to form at the site of the rupture.
- The presence of the clot blocks the flow of blood in the coronary artery, which triggers a heart attack.
Note: Heart attacks can lead to permanent damage of the heart if not acted upon quickly. The symptoms of a heart attack varies between individuals so it is important to be able to recognise these symptoms.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack1, 3
Tightness/heaviness/pressure in the centre of the chest (20% of people do not experience this symptom)
Discomfort in other parts of the upper body (e.g. Arms, shoulder, neck, jaw, and back)
Shortness of breath
Other symptoms (e.g. Dizziness, nausea, a cold sweat)
Note: If any of the above symptoms are experienced, it is important to act swiftly because every second matters.
Action Plan1, 3
- Call an ambulance immediately
- Sit down and rest
- If available, take 300mg of aspirin (reduce heart damage by keeping your blood from clotting)
- If available, use a nitrate spray (400mcg to 800mcg spray under the tongue) or a nitrate tablet (300mcg to 600mcg tablet under the tongue), which helps dilate the blood vessels to help improve blood flow to the heart
Note: Some people can be allergic to aspirin and there might be other medications that might interfere with nitrate based medications
Created by KW
1. NHS Choices. Heart Attack [Internet]. NHS Choices [Updated 2014 June 13; cited 2016 July 5]. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Heart-attack/Pages/Introduction.aspx
2. American Heart Association. About Heart Attack [Internet]. American Heart Association [Updated 2015 July; cited 2016 July 5]. Available from: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/AboutHeartAttacks/About-Heart-Attacks_UCM_002038_Article.jsp#.V3uXGKuUUzY
3. Medline Plus. Heart Attack [Internet]. Medline Plus [Updated 2015 April 20; cited 2016 July 5]. Available from: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000195.ht
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