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Heart Attacks and Heart Disease

What Happens During a Heart Attack?

The heart muscle requires a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood to nourish it. The coronary arteries provide the heart with this critical blood supply. If you have coronary artery disease, those arteries become narrow and blood cannot flow as well as they should. Fatty matter, calcium, proteins, and inflammatory cells build up within the arteries to form plaques of different sizes. The plaque deposits are hard on the outside and soft and mushy on the inside.

When the plaque is hard, the outer shell cracks (plaque rupture), platelets (disc-shaped particles in the blood that aid clotting) come to the area, and blood clots form around the plaque. If a blood clot totally blocks the artery, the heart muscle becomes “starved” for oxygen. Within a short time, death of heart muscle cells occurs, causing permanent damage. This is a heart attack.

While it is unusual, a heart attack can also be caused by a spasm of a coronary artery. During a coronary spasm, the coronary arteries restrict or spasm on and off, reducing blood supply to the heart muscle (ischemia). It may occur at rest, and can even occur in people without significant coronary artery disease.

Each coronary artery supplies blood to a region of heart muscle. The amount of damage to the heart muscle depends on the size of the area supplied by the blocked artery and the time between injury and treatment.

Healing of the heart muscle begins soon after a heart attack and takes about eight weeks. Just like a skin wound, the heart’s wound heals and a scar will form in the damaged area. But, the new scar tissue does not contract. So, the heart’s pumping ability is lessened after a heart attack. The amount of lost pumping ability depends on the size and location of the scar.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone
  • Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
  • Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
  • Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats

During a heart attack, symptoms last 30 minutes or longer and are not relieved by rest or nitroglycerin under the tongue.

Some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms (a “silent” myocardial infarction). A silent MI can occur in anyone, but it is more common among people with diabetes.



2 comments

  1. With best regard I write to commend the foudation on for the humanatarian assistant you have been rendaering since the inception of this foundation we will keep praying for you and also with little possible donation we will be able to give best wishes. thank you.

  2. The birth of Marachi Michaela Chinedu Azubuike (my Niece), a six month old baby with a heart defect to the family of Mr and Mrs Kingsley Chinedu Azubuike in September 2015 was celebrated with pomp and pageantry. This young couple got married 20th December 2014, it was moment of joy for the family when Marachi arrived, she was seen as an angel sent by God. However, while the family was still savouring this great visitation from God, the devil struck and what should have been a bundle of joy turned out to be a source of worry and sorrow for the family when Marachi was diagnosed with the health condition in February 2016.
    Marachi was born with a Congenital Heart Defect that lay undetected until she suddenly became ill and passed out at four months old.
    She was rushed to the hospital, resuscitated and was diagnosed with a complex heart condition. According to a medical report signed by the consultant Paediatric cardiologist, University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH).
    Marachi has a complex heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot that has four different components viz:
    1. Pulmonary Stenosis
    2. Ventricular Septal Defect(VSD)
    3. Overriding Aorta
    4. Right Ventricular Hypertrophy.
    Her parents are in tears and busy raising funds to keep her alive. “she is currently on oxygen support (critical condition) at a known private hospital in Benin City and requires urgent surgical intervention to correct her heart defect and to give Marachi her life back that she deserves”.
    Her Father who is a Laboratory Scientist working as a volunteer in Heart2Heart unit at St. Philomena Catholic Hospital, Benin City and her mother a young graduate still in search for a job, has said “we have spent all our savings and we need help from kind hearted people like you”.
    Help us save Marachi’s life.
    Thank You.


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