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A heart attack occurs when a blood clot or other blockage forms in a coronary artery and suddenly stops blood flow to the heart. Your heart depends on a continuous flow of oxygen-rich blood to function properly. When it does not receive oxygen, even for a short period, your heart tissue will begin to die. This event is called a myocardial infarction, or a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of heart attacks. Patients with this condition have plaque buildup on the walls of their coronary arteries—the ones that supply blood to the heart muscle —narrowing the passageway. If a plaque deposit ruptures, a blood clot will form and can completely block blood from moving through to the heart, leading to tissue damage.

To help you stay informed and knowledgeable about heart attacks, here are five heart attack facts your heart doctors at Middle Georgia Heart want you to know:

1. Heart Attacks Don’t Always Show Obvious Symptoms

We’ve all seen a movie or TV show where one of the characters, often an older gentleman, clutches their chest with both hands or grabs their left arm with their right hand and falls to the ground. Clearly, they are experiencing a heart attack.

But in reality, the symptoms and appearance of a heart attack can look much different and a bit less obvious. Some patients do experience sudden and severe symptoms, such as cardiac arrest. Others may only experience mild symptoms or even no symptoms at all. And symptoms can occur for days or weeks before an event like cardiac arrest.

Symptoms of a heart attack can include one or more of the following:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain, pressure, or tightness
  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Pain or discomfort in the mid to upper body, including the abdomen, shoulders, arms, back, neck, or jaw

What Is Cardiac Arrest?

Sometimes mistaken as a heart attack, cardiac arrest is an event wherein your heart stops functioning altogether suddenly. The root cause of cardiac arrest is an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, that can be caused by a heart attack or one of several other conditions.

When a person goes into cardiac arrest, the patient stops breathing and loses consciousness. Emergency medical attention is required, or else the patient can expire.

Foods for healthy Heart.

2. Men and Women Can Experience Differing Heart Attack Symptoms

Heart attack symptoms can appear one way for a man and another way for a woman. The typical signs of a heart attack that we have been taught to look for are those that most often affect men, but women experience heart attacks differently.

Men are likely to experience a few of the symptoms listed above, including:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Significant chest pain, pressure, or tightness
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the back, neck, or jaw

Women can experience significant chest pain, but it’s not common. Women are likely to show signs like:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the upper abdomen, lower chest, back, neck, or jaw

3. Heart Attacks Affect Young People, Too

We tend to equate heart attacks with older generations because the majority of heart attack patients are over the age of 65. However, heart attacks among those under the age of 40 are on the rise. In fact, one out of every five heart attack patients are younger, the majority being in their 20s and 30s.

The rise in heart attacks among younger patients is a more recent development that can be attributed to a few different factors:

  • Diabetes—younger patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at a much higher risk of experiencing a heart attack.
  • Obesity—Obesity adds extra strain on the heart and is often accompanied by other risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Smoking and vaping—Smoking is a major risk factor for heart attacks. Smoking cigarettes causes significant damage to the body, including the heart and arteries, and can double your risk of a heart attack. Vaping is also problematic as it raises blood pressure and accelerates your heartbeat, putting strain on your heart. Those who vape are over 30% more likely to experience a heart attack than those who don’t.
  • Drug use—drugs, like cocaine, affect the body in so many negative ways, including elevating your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure, and narrowing your vessels, which can all lead to a heart attack.

4. High Cholesterol Is a Major Risk Factor for Heart Attacks (But It’s Not the Only One)

Since heart attacks are caused by a blockage in a coronary artery, and blockage comes from plaque buildup caused by cholesterol, having high cholesterol is a major risk factor for a heart attack.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet
  • Inactivity
  • Smoking

5. Heart Attacks Are Preventable

For the vast majority of patients, heart disease that leads to a heart attack is preventable with the right care and consideration for your lifestyle. By making healthy choices and remaining mindful of your heart health, you can reduce your likelihood of experiencing a heart attack, even if you have a family history or other risk factors.

Protect Your Heart and Avoid Heart Attacks by Choosing the Heart Doctors at Middle Georgia Heart.

Our cardiologists can help you treat or manage your coronary artery disease and other heart conditions, helping restore your heart health and reduce your risk of a heart attack. Through effective treatment plans and beneficial advice for at-home heart care, we are your caring partners committed to helping you achieve and maintain a healthy heart. Discover more from our team by scheduling an appointment with our practice today: 478-207-5224

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