Monday, October 22, 2012

Heart Attacks In Depth

Heart With Muscle Damage and a
Blocked Artery
A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of the heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked.  If blood flow isn't restored quickly, the section of the heart muscle begins to die.  Heart attacks are the leading killer of both men and women in the United States.  The good news is that excellent treatments are available for heart attacks.  These treatments can save lives and prevent disabilities.  Heart attacks most often occur as a result of Coronary Heart Disease (CHC), also called Coronary Artery Disease.  CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque (plak) builds up inside the coronary arteries.  These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart.  When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis.  The build up of plaque occurs over many years.  Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture (break open) inside an artery.  This causes a blood clot to form on  the plaque's surface.  If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow through through the coronary artery.  If the blockage isn't  treated quickly, the portion of the heart muscle fed by the artery begins to die.  Healthy heart tissue is replaced by scar tissue.  This heart damage may not be obvious, but it may cause severe or long-lasting problems.  A less common cause of heart attack is a severe spasm (tightening) of a coronary artery.  The spasm cuts off blood flow through the artery.  Spasms can occur in occur in coronary arteries that aren't affected by atherosclerosis.  Heart attacks can be associated with or lead to severe health problems, such as heart failure or life-threatening arrhythmias.  Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.  Arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats.  Ventricular fibrillation is a life-threatening arrhythmia that can cause death if not treated right away.  Make sure to get immediate help if you think one is occuring!  Stay Informed!

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