Symptoms and Causes of Heart Attacks

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Symptoms and Causes of Heart Attacks A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is the death of heart muscle due to the loss of blood supply. Usually, the loss of blood supply is caused by a complete blockage of a coronary artery by a blood clot. A coronary artery is an artery that supplies blood to the heart muscle. Death of the heart muscle causes chest pain and electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue. Electrical instability of the heart causes ventricular fibrillation (chaotic electrical disturbance). Orderly transmission of electrical signals in the heart is important for the regular beating (pumping) of the heart. A heart undergoing ventricular fibrillation quivers, and can not pump or deliver oxygenated blood to the brain. Permanent brain damage and death can occur unless oxygenated blood flow is restored within five minutes. Approximately one million Americans suffer a heart attack annually. Four hundred thousand of these victims die as a result. Many of the heart attack deaths are due to ventricular fibrillation of the heart that occurs before the victim can reach any medical assistance or the emergency room. These electrical disturbances of the heart can be treated with medications once the patient reaches the hospital. Therefore, 90% to 95% of heart attack victims who make it to the hospital survive. The 5% to 10% who later die are those who have suffered major heart muscle damage. Early heart attack deaths can be avoided if a bystander starts CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) within five minutes of the onset of ventricular fibrillation. CPR involves breathing for the victim and applying external chest compression to make the heart pump. When paramedics arrive, medications and/or electrical shock (car... ... middle of paper ... ...normal activities after two weeks. These activities include returning to work as well as normal sexual activity. A moderate heart attack requires limited, gradually increasing activity for four weeks, while a large heart attack results in a six week recovery period. These time frames are necessary for the dead heart muscle to substantially complete the scarring process. During this healing period, patients should avoid vigorous exertion and heavy lifting (over 20 pounds) or any activity that causes shortness of breath or sweating. Bibliography: Sternlieb, Jack, M.D. Eight Steps To A Healthy Heart. Warner Books Inc: New York, 1992 Norman, John C. Cardiac Surgery. Appleton-Century-Crofts: New York, 1972 Lindsey, Mary. Human Body. Dorling Kindersley Inc: New York, 1991

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