Heart attack is caused by narrowed heart arteries. When arteries are narrowed (a process called atherosclerosis), less blood and oxygen reaches the heart muscle. This is also called coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease. This can ultimately lead to heart attack.
A heart attack happens when a blockage in one or more coronary arteries reduces or stops blood flow to the heart, which starves a part of the heart muscle of oxygen.
Women tend to develop symptoms of heart disease at a much later stage of the illness than men. Their symptoms are often vaguer or ‘non-specific’.
RISK FACTORS IN WOMEN
Traditional Heart Attack Risk
- high blood pressure,
- high blood sugar levels,
- high cholesterol levels,
- smoking and obesity.
- A family history of heart disease, particularly when a father or brother was diagnosed with CAD before age 55, or a mother or sister was diagnosed before age 65.
Non-traditional Heart Attack Risk
- endometriosis (Endometriosis has been found to raise the risk of developing CAD by 400 percent in women under age 40),
- polycystic ovary disease,
- diabetes and
- high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy.
WHAT TEST WILL I HAVE
- A routine blood test
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Exercise stress test
- MRI scan
- CT coronary angiogram
The type of heart attack (also called myocardial infarction, or MI) you experienced determines the treatments your medical team will choose.
The blockage might be complete or partial.
- A complete blockage of a coronary artery means you suffered a ‘STEMI’ heart attack — which stands for ST-elevation myocardial infarction.
- A partial blockage would be an ‘NSTEMI’ heart attack — a non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction.
Always call your most trusted hospital if you suspect you have a heart attack.
Treatments differ for a STEMI versus NSTEMI heart attack, although there can be some overlap.
Hospitals commonly use techniques to restore blood flow to part of the heart muscle damaged during a heart attack.
You might receive:
- clot-dissolving drugs (thrombolysis),
- balloon angioplasty,
- percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a mechanical means of treating heart attack.
- surgery, or
- a combination of treatments.
TREATMENT OF A PATIENT WITH HEART ATTACK (STEMI)
Blockage of the right coronary artery in a heart attack patient
Following successful coronary angioplasty, the flow in the affected coronary artery is now reestablished
Watch your weight. Choose a healthy eating plan.
The food you eat can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Be physically active.
You can slowly work up to at least 2½ hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., jogging, running) or a combination of both every week. Additionally, on 2 or more days a week, you need muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest shoulders, and arms). Children should get at least 60 minutes of activity every day.
Be aware of the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke.
And heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men.
Know your family history.
Also, keep your doctor informed about any heart problems you learn about in your family.
Tame your stress.
Long-term stress causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage the artery walls.
Has your blood sugar level checked?
In addition to blood pressure checks and other heart-health screenings, you should have a fasting blood glucose test by the time you’re 45. This first test serves as a baseline for future tests, which you should have every three years. Testing may be done earlier or more often if you are overweight, diabetic or at risk for becoming diabetic.
Don’t brush off snoring.
One in five adults has at least mild sleep apnea, a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. If not properly treated, sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Follow your treatment plan.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or other conditions that increase your risk for heart disease or stroke. Lower your risk by following your prescribed treatment plan, including medications and lifestyle and diet changes.
- Find a doctor and have regular wellness exams.
- Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.