What happens during a Heart Attack?
At the start of a heart attack the lining of one of the arteries supplying the heart with blood develops a tear. As the heart attack develops blood comes into contact with the inner wall of the artery. As a result the blood clots. The process during a heart attack is similar to the blood clot which forms over a skin cut. During a heart attack the blood clot stops the flow of blood down the artery. The heart muscle that needs this blood is damaged and eventually dies. This can be detected by blood tests and also by changes recorded on an ECG, electrocardiogram.
What does a Heart Attack feel like?
Usually you feel a heart attack as a very bad crushing feeling in the chest. Some patients describe the feeling as like having a heavy weight in the chest. Others say that it feels as though they are being squeezed or crushed very hard. The feeling is not always in the chest it can be in the neck, arms or stomach. If you have a severe feeling like this lasting more than a very few minutes do not wait dial 999 and ask for the ambulance service.
How do you treat a Heart Attack?
Treatments for heart attacks have changed a lot over the last 5 – 10 years. The treatment now often involves reopening the artery with a balloon on a tube (coronary angioplasty) and then using a metal coil (a stent) to keep the artery open. Depending on the results of tests this may be done immediately or after a period of treatment with tablets and injections.
Occasionally a drug is used to dissolve the clot and treat the heart attack. After a heart attack patients usually need several sorts of medicine and are given advice on how to avoid further attacks.
If you have concerns about heart attacks and how to avoid them I can answer general questions by email If you would like a private appointment to talk to a specialist then, with the agreement of your GP please feel free to telephone my secretary to book an appointment on 020 8441 2922