Heart Attack

We started discussion on heart attack last edition, from what it is not. In this edition we shall try to round up the discussion, and present to you what a heart attack is. Chest pains, Difficulty in breathing and Emotional problems are the other conditions being confused for a heart attack. Chest pains can arise from many entirely different causes, none of which are directly related to the heart itself. Inflammation of the joints between the ribs and the sternum, known as COSTOCHONDRITIS, Pleurisy, fractured ribs and fibrositis are some of these conditions that can cause pains in the chest often mistaken for a heart attack. Tuberculosis, pneumonia, cancer of the lungs, are some other conditions not related to the heart, that can cause chest pain
Emotional problems are another frequent cause of pains in the chest. This may come in the form of feeling of heavy weight, lying over the middle of the chest, lasting for hours or days at a time. Deep emotional conflict, brought on by sorrow or disappointment are likely to give rise to such feelings. This is why, in ancient times, people regarded the heart as the center of emotions, rather than the brain. Today we still use “heart” when we mean mind or soul. Difficulty in breathing is common in heart disease. Nervous tension brings on some difficulty in breathing. Hard work also brings on some heavy breathing, including vigorous exercise. These are not heart attack.
Then what is a heart attack? A genuine heart attack arises from only one cause-insufficient blood supply to the heart itself. The heart pumps blood to the rest of the body, and to itself, for it needs blood to function. Every muscle cell in the body needs blood, including the heart muscles. This is what keeps the tissues alive and healthy. If the blood supply is cut off even for a few minutes the muscle cells cry out in pain. The muscle fibers of the heart are the most active cells in the whole human body. There are some small blood vessels in the heart that carries blood to the all the fibers of the heart. These branched out from two very important arteries called the coronary arteries. In the normal healthy person there is always a sufficient supply of blood through these coronary arteries to meet the needs of the heart.
Obstruction of a coronary artery leads to poor or inadequate supply of blood to the heart muscles. This is the cause of heart attack. Partial obstruction of the coronary arteries is brought about by some degenerative process taking place within the walls of these vessels. This can also occur in other vessels throughout the body. But this is of far less danger. Obstruction of a coronary artery can be fatal. This is heart attack. This degenerative process is known as ATHEROSCLEROSIS. This leads to the hardening of the arteries. Eventually cholesterol builds up in the walls of the vessels, causing them to become stiffened and no longer flexible.
Calcium is then deposited in the area causing obstruction to blood flow. In the larger vessels like the aorta a great deal of hardening can take place without interfering too much with the flow of blood. But in the coronary arteries the situation is very different. Even a small bulge on the inside of one of these vessels may almost completely obstruct the flow of blood. Soon a blood clot forms, blocking the vessel completely. This is called coronary thrombosis. When it occurs it means that a blood clot has formed in a branch of one of the coronary arteries. Only a small area of the heart may be involved, and there may be plenty of blood in the surrounding areas. But once the blood supply to a certain part of the muscle has been cut, the heart cries out in pains. This is a true heart attack. So heart attack occurs when the blood supply to some heart muscles is cut off. This is most commonly caused by coronary thrombosis.
In a real heart attack arising from coronary thrombosis, a severe, crushing sensation is usually felt in the chest. This may last for several hours or days. The pain may radiate as some pain may be felt in the left shoulder, the arm, neck, and occasionally the jaw. Nausea and vomiting may be present, especially during the earlier stages of the attack. The blood pressure falls to a low level, and the patient is very ill. The skin is pale and feels cold and clammy to the touch. The pulse is very weak. This is a serious condition known as shock.
In subsequent editions we will conclude the discussion on heart attack with a look at factors affecting or influencing heart attack, prevention and treatment of heart attack.
Remain blessed

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