“Chest pain” might be a warning sign of a heart attack. Not all heart problems come with clear warning signs.
Chest pain might happen during daily activities or exercise. Some people may feel tightness, pain, or aching sensation in their chest that may spread to their neck, jaw, or shoulder. Sweating and irregular heart beat might also be signs of a heart attack. If you have any of these symptoms, you should call an ambulance right away.
Dr. Rapin Kukreja, an interventional cardiologist at Bangkok Heart Hospital, explained to us about the cause of a heart attack or myocardial infarction. A heart attack occurs when one or more of your coronary arteries become blocked. Buildup plaque narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow to the heart muscle. The plaques can rupture and a blood clot forms at the site of the rupture. The clot can completely block the flow of the blood through the coronary artery causing a heart attack.
“If the damaging area of the heart muscle is large, it might cause a sudden death”
Nowadays, there is an increase in the number of heart attack patients. The ages of the patients are also lower. However, declines have been observed in mortality rate from acute myocardial infarction.
10%-15% of the patients die before arriving at the hospital and 10% die at the hospital. “Patients who receive early treatment have better prognosis and are able to return to their normal lives. If there is a large area of damaged heart muscle, the patient might be very weak and immobile”.
With each passing minute after a heart attack, more heart tissue loses oxygen and deteriorates or dies. The main way to prevent heart damage is to restore blood flow quickly. In the past, thrombolytic drugs were used to help dissolving blood clots. Currently, percutaneous coronary intervention is a preferred treatment option. It is a procedure in which a guided balloon is used to open a narrowed coronary artery. A stent is usually placed at the narrowed artery.
Symptoms of a heart attack may vary. The patients presenting with chest pain with an abnormal ECG called ST elevation MI (STEMI) is a high risk group.
Timely treatment of a heart attack is vital. Even a few minutes can have an impact on the patient’s future. 40 minutes after a heart attack, the heart muscle will start to die. Therefore, the golden period of treatment is the first 4 hours.
“3-4 hours after a heart attack is the “best window” period. A cardiologist will try to open the narrowed artery within 90 minutes in order to preserve the heart muscles. Within this period, there is 60%-70% chance of good functional recovery”.
However, the treatment window to open the narrowed artery is allowed up to 12 hours in order to increase the patient’s survival rate.
Last but not least, Dr. Rapin said that people who maintain a healthy lifestyle will have more chance of survival from a heart attack compared to the ones who do not. Modification of lifestyle is critically important to reduce the risk of a heart attack. This can be done by eating healthy, exercising regularly, stop smoking, and have an annual physical check-up.