While the world’s heart attack survival rate has improved due to better health care, that doesn’t mean the disease no longer poses a significant threat. Here we are going to talk a little about what heart attacks are, what causes them and how you can prevent them from happening.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, happens when a blockage in one or more arteries in the heart prevents blood from flowing to the organ. This lack of blood flow is dangerous because it causes the heart muscle to die quickly.
In general, there are 2 classifications of heart attack:
- A type I heart attack happens when plaque on the inner wall of the artery breaks down. It then releases cholesterol and other substances into the bloodstream, forming a blood clot that blocks the artery.
- Type II heart attack – This heart attack is not necessarily due to complete blockage of an artery, but rather when the heart does not get the oxygen-rich blood it needs.
Causes of heart attack
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of heart attacks is coronary artery disease (CAD). This happens when plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the organ. This buildup of plaque is commonly known as atherosclerosis.
Severe spasms or sudden contractions of a coronary artery can also block blood flow to the heart. Other common causes of heart attacks also include:
- torn blood vessels;
- Misuse of drugs;
- Lack of oxygen in the blood.
The CDC also estimates that about 50% of all adults have at least one of the three main risk factors that increase a person’s chances of having some other type of heart disease. These significant risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking.
Other common risk factors also include:
- Diabetes – The American Heart Association estimates that adults who have diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than people who don’t have it.
- Depression – The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says adults with depression or symptoms are 64% more likely to develop CAD.
- Obesity – Being obese or overweight is also linked to numerous cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. It is often due to a poor diet, lack of physical exercise and excessive alcohol consumption.
Heart attack symptoms
An increase in awareness of the symptoms of a heart attack has also led to an improved survival rate globally. These symptoms usually include:
- chest pains;
- Shortness of breath or difficult breathing;
- Pain in the upper body, especially in the arms, shoulders, or neck.
Regardless of gender, a person can experience a mixture of any of the symptoms listed above. In addition, however, there are sex-specific differences in the biology, presentation, and outcomes of heart attacks.
For example, a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that women are more likely to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain.
The study even shows that men are more likely to have heart attacks caused by plaque ruptures. On the other hand, women are more likely to have heart attacks caused by non-obstructive CAD.
In addition, high estrogen levels also reduce the risk of a heart attack. Because of this, women’s risk of having a heart attack increases after menopause.
A recent study also shows that after experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, women tend to wait longer before contacting emergency services than men. This results in more women experiencing more severe effects than men.
Heart attack survival rate
A larger, age-specific study “Heart Attack Survival Rate” has not yet been published. However, most studies focus on the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease in general.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimates that 12% of people who have a heart attack die from it.
The American Heart Association also says that 19% of men and 26% of women who have a heart attack will die within a year. Furthermore, in the next five years after a heart attack, nearly 50% of women succumb to the effects of the disease, compared to just 36% of men.
Treatments for heart attacks
Of course, the best treatment for a heart attack is still prevention. If it’s too late for that, however, doctors have several ways to diagnose and treat heart attacks.
Doctors often order a cardiac catheterization. Using a flexible tube will involve a probe that the doctor will insert into your blood vessels. This will allow the doctor to see where plaque may have built up, allowing them to decide on the appropriate course of action.
The treatments that follow will depend on the severity of the condition. It can be surgical or non-surgical.
Some standard procedures include:
- Angioplasty – This procedure opens the blocked artery using a balloon. Nowadays, however, angioplasties are often accompanied by other treatments.
- Stent – A stent is essentially a wire mesh inserted by surgeons into the artery that keeps it open after angioplasty.
- Heart bypass surgery – A heart bypass surgery involves redirecting blood around a blockage.
- Heart valve surgery – Also known as valve repair or valve replacement surgery, the procedure involves repairing or replacing leaking valves to help the heart pump.
- Pacemakers – Pacemakers are devices implanted under the skin that help the heart maintain a normal rhythm.
- Heart transplant – In the worst-case scenarios where permanent tissue death for most of the heart has already occurred, a heart transplant is usually the ideal treatment.
Prevention of heart attacks
As mentioned earlier, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Therefore, preventing heart attacks or reducing their risk implies a healthier lifestyle.
Preventing heart attacks includes increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar, following a healthy diet, and avoiding addictions like smoking and excessive drinking.
When in doubt, you can always work with your doctor to find holes in your lifestyle that you can improve on to lower your risk of having a heart attack.
Knowing how to recognize the symptoms, having a firm understanding of the causes, symptoms and treatments of a heart attack, and what to do next is crucial to increasing a person’s survival rate.
It’s no use considering yourself a Survivalist here on the internet and dying because you simply kept a routine all your life that only killed you little by little.