How to Recognize, Treat, and Prevent a Heart Attack

Heart attacks affect over a million Americans each year. Though they can be treated if they are quickly diagnosed, there are still unpleasant side effects, and an untreated heart attack can be deadly. Taking steps to prevent a heart attack and learning to recognize heart attack symptoms can ultimately be lifesaving.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when heart tissue is damaged or dies due to an artery blockage. When a coronary artery is blocked, blood cannot flow, so the heart does not receive enough oxygen. Coronary artery disease causes most heart attacks, but they can also be caused by a sudden artery spasm or tear.

Heart attack prevention

What are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

  • A person experiencing a heart attack can have any or all of these symptoms:
  • Dizziness, sweating, nausea, and vomiting
  • Feelings of anxiety, weakness, indigestion, fullness, choking, or heartburn
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats
  • Discomfort in the back, throat, arm, or jaw
  • Feelings of pressure in the chest, breastbone, or arm

Heart attack prevention

How is a Heart Attack Treated?

During a heart attack, it is important to restore blood flow quickly. A doctor may use the following treatments to aid a heart attack victim.

  • Various medications can be prescribed to increase blood flow.
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery may occur during or after the heart attack to send blood flow around the damaged section of arteries.
  • A catheter might be inserted into a blocked artery to open it and restore blood flow.

What Increases Your Heart Attack Risks?

Certain risk factors can greatly increase the dangers of having a heart attack, including:

  • Old age
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • A family history of heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Using illegal drugs

What is Heart Attack Prevention?

If you are at risk for a heart attack, a doctor can prescribe medications to lessen the likelihood of a heart attack. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can diminish the chances of a heart attack. It is important to stay at a healthy weight, exercise, avoid smoking, and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels down.