Myocardial infarction is the irreversible death of heart muscle due to prolonged lack of the oxygen supply. Approximately 1.5 million cases of myocardial infarction occur annually in the United States. There are three types of myocardial infarctions: ST-segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction, or STEMI, Non-ST segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction, or NSTEMI, and coronary spasm, or unstable angina. The term ST-segment refers to the pattern that appears on an electrocardiogram. Both STEMI and NSTEMI can cause enough damage to be considered major heart attacks. STEMI is the most common type of myocardial infarction.
What Is Acute Myocardial Infarction?
Also known as a heart attack, a myocardial infarction occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart either decreases or stops, causing damage to the heart muscle. The word acute means to be severe or intense. A heart attack can be anywhere from minor to severe. No matter how mild, it is still recommended you seek medical attention right away.
What Are The Symptoms of Acute Myocardial Infarction?
Symptoms of acute myocardial infarction include the following:
- Angina: Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest, which is also described as tightness, heaviness, aching, burning, pressure, fullness, or numbness. The squeezing feeling can last a few minutes at once or go away and return later. Sometimes this symptom is mistaken to be indigestion or heartburn.
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Sweating or cold sweats
- Discomfort or pain in other areas of the upper body including back, neck, jaw, arms, left shoulder, or stomach
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Unexplained fatigue or extreme weakness
When Should You See A Doctor?
You should seek medical help as soon as you start experiencing any of the symptoms of acute myocardial infarction. Calling 911 or going into the emergency room right away is a must. Ignoring the warning signs is dangerous since a heart attack can be a life-threatening experience. Depending on the severity, a heart attack can have a crucial impact on the outcome of your future health.
How Is Acute Myocardial Infarction Diagnosed?
There are several ways a medical provider can diagnose your condition including:
- Blood Test: Blood is drawn to measure the levels of cardiac enzymes that indicate heart muscle damage.
- Electrocardiogram: Also known as EKG or ECG, this test can tell how much damage has occurred to your heart muscle and where.
- Echocardiography: An imaging test that can be used during or after a heart attack to see how the heart is pumping and what areas are not pumping properly.
- Stress Test: Test to see how your heart responds to certain situations, such as exercise.
Treatment Options for Acute Myocardial Infarction
You will be given medication as soon as possible within 1-2 hours of having a heart attack to decrease the amount of heart damage. The longer you wait to take these medications, the more damage can occur, and the less effective the medications will be. Some will prevent blood from clotting that may worsen the heart attack. Other antiplatelets can help dissolve any blood clots in the heart’s arteries. Bypass surgery may be performed in the days following the heart attack to restore the heart muscle’s supply of blood, but this isn’t always necessary.
Who’s More Susceptible To Having Acute Myocardial Infarction?
If you have a family history of heart disease, especially if there have been any males in your family who developed it before the age of 55 or any females that developed it before the age of 65. Also, if you have high blood pressure, high triglycerides or high cholesterol levels, you are also more at risk of having a heart attack. Other factors that contribute to acute myocardial infarction are diabetes, excess weight, and smoking. Men older than 45 and women older than 55 are also at a higher risk of having a myocardial infarction.
Can A Heart Attack Be Prevented?
You can help prevent the chances of having a heart attack by eating a heart-healthy diet. This diet largely consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein. Cutting back on sugar, trans, and saturated fats, and cholesterol from your diet can help as well. Exercising several times a week is essential to strengthen your heart muscle and improve cardiovascular health. Also, try to quit smoking as soon as possible.
What Causes A Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. A buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances is most often what causes the blockage. These form a plaque in the coronary arteries that feed the heart. The coronary arteries are what takes oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle.
What Are The Chances Of Having A Second Heart Attack?
If you had a heart attack, then you are at an increased risk of having another one. This is usually because your heart muscles are weakened even more due to the first attack. You can help prevent having a second one by eating healthy and exercising regularly as mentioned before. Speak with your doctor about preventing a second heart attack from happening.
How Does Having An Acute Myocardial Infarction Affect Daily Living?
Depending on your treatment following a heart attack, it can affect your daily living in a couple of different ways. Some people get anxiety after having a heart attack or become more worrisome and stressed about the possibilities of another one occurring. If this is the case, you may want to speak with a professional to help with those feelings. Another change you may notice is the need to take medication on a regular basis now. Your medical provider will give you specific directions after you have bypass surgery. Besides medication, you might need therapy and will have to visit your doctor for several follow-up appointments.