Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
A heart attack also called myocardial infarction occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked preventing enough oxygen from getting to the heart. A heart attack doesn't have to be deadly. Quick treatment can restore blood flow to the heart and save your life.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A HEART ATTACK?
- Chest discomfort in the center of the chest that may last for more than a few minutes or may come and go. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing often come along with the chest discomfort, but may occur before any chest pain.
- Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.
**Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, and different people can experience each symptom differently. If you have any suspicion that you could be having a heart attack, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1.
For more information about heart attacks, visit the National Heart Attack Alert Program and the American Heart Association.
**Heart Attacks are medical emergencies! If you believe you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately!
HOW CAN I LOWER MY RISK OF HAVING A HEART ATTACK?
There are some things you can control that will lower your risk of a heart attack, and some things you can’t. Things you can’t control include:
Risk Factors That Can’t Be Controlled
- Age – Heart disease risk increases with age. Risk is highest for men over age 45 and for women over age 55.
- Family History – Having an immediate family member with early heart disease increases one’s risk. By having a father or brother who had a heart attack or was diagnosed with heart disease before age 55, or a mother or sister diagnosed before age 65, one may have a higher risk of developing heart disease. It is important that everyone know his/her own family health history.
There are more things you that you CAN control that will lower your risk of a heart attack. These risk factors include:
Risk Factors That Can Be Controlled
- Smoking - Cigarette smoking increases the risk of heart disease. Tobacco can cause hardening of the arteries. Cigarettes also raise blood pressure and reduce the amount of oxygen the blood carries.
- High Blood Pressure – Blood Pressure is the pressure exerted on the arteries when the heart pumps. There are no symptoms of high blood pressure, and most people do not know that they have it. Controlling blood pressure through healthy habits and medication, if required, can reduce the risk of heart disease.
- High Cholesterol – Cholesterol is a fatty substance that builds up in the arteries. The body does require some fats and cholesterol in moderation, but having too much raises the risk of heart disease. Reducing cholesterol levels can reduce risk.
- Obesity – Obesity is excess body fat. It has been linked to heart disease and its other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Losing weight can lower the risk of all these conditions.
- Nutrition – A high fat diet has been linked to heart disease risk. Eating a low-fat, low-sodium diet high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables can lower that risk.
- Physical Inactivity – Not being physically active can raise the risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Regular exercise can decrease the risk of all these conditions.
- Diabetes – People with diabetes have a much higher risk for heart disease. Click here to learn more about diabetes. Persons with diabetes should be sure to work with their healthcare provider to help manage their diabetes and to control other risk factors.
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HEART DISEASE AND THE ENVIRONMENT?
While personal risk factors (all of the risk factors above) are the most important ones we know in determining someone’s risk of heart disease, environmental risk factors can play a part. Air pollutants, especially carbon monoxide, ozone, and particulate matter (very small suspended particles), have been shown to increase the risk of mortality and morbidity (death and sickness) in the population as a whole. For this reason, people with heart or lung disease are advised to be careful and avoid exposures to outdoor air during bad air quality days. When the air quality index shows that the air is high in ozone, particulate matter, and other pollutants, people with heart disease or lung disease (especially the elderly and children) are advised to avoid exposures and strenuous physical activity.