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All about heart attack symptoms of heart attack heart attack symptoms in woman warning signs of heart attack causes of heart attack complications of heart attacks risk factors for heart attack diagnosis of heart attack heart attack treatment heart attack medications aspirin and heart attacks surgeries for heart attacks survive a heart attack heart attack prevention heart attack recovery

How to survive a heart attack?

In a heart emergency, you must make crucial decisions under stress. Even if you ultimately make wise choices, you waste valuable minutes if you spend time weighing your options. If you do insist on waiting to see what happens, allot yourself only five minutes. But not a minute more. As heart attack is a common medical emergency, the signs are often part of first aid courses. General management in the acute setting is calling for help as soon as possible; giving aspirin (300-500 mg),

which inhibits formation of further blood clots; being prepared to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in case of arrhythmia or cardiac arrest.

Since the publication of data that availability of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public places may significantly increase chances of survival, many of these have been installed in public buildings, public transport facilities and in non-ambulance emergency vehicles (e.g. police cars and fire engines). AEDs analyze the rhythm and determine whether the arrhythmia is amenable to defibrillation ("shockable").

Emergency services: Emergency services may recommend the patient to take nitroglycerin tablets or patches, in case these are available, particularly if they had prior heart attacks or angina. In an ambulance, an intravenous line is established, and the patient is transported immediately if breathing and pulse are present. Oxygen first aid is provided and the patient is calmed. Close cardiac monitoring (with an electrocardiogram) is initiated if available. If the patient has lost breathing or circulation advanced cardiac life support (including defibrillation) may be necessary and (at the paramedic level) injection of medications may be given per protocol. CPR is performed if there is no satisfactory cardiac output. About 20% of patients die before they reach the hospital; the cause of death is often ventricular fibrillation.

Wilderness first aid: In wilderness first aid, a possible heart attack justifies medical evacuation by the fastest available means, including MEDEVAC, even in the earliest or precursor stages. The patient will rapidly be incapable of further exertion and have to be carried out.

Air travel: Doctors traveling by commercial aircraft may be able to assist an MI patient by using the on-board first aid kit, which contains basic cardiac drugs used in advanced cardiac life support, and oxygen. Flight attendants are generally aware of the location of these materials. Pilots are required to divert the flight to the nearest airport.

Fast action is crucial. A heart attack occurs when an artery supplying your heart with blood and oxygen becomes blocked. With each passing minute, more heart tissue is deprived of oxygen and sustains permanent damage or dies. It's crucial to restore blood flow within the first hour, when most damage occurs. In the initial minutes, a heart attack can trigger ventricular fibrillation. This unstable heart rhythm produces an ineffective heartbeat, causing insufficient blood flow to vital organs. Without immediate treatment, ventricular fibrillation leads to sudden death. Automatic external defibrillators — found in most emergency vehicles and increasingly in public places — can provide lifesaving treatment before you reach the hospital. Once at the hospital, early use of clot-dissolving drugs and coronary angioplasty also improve your chances of surviving a heart attack.

The first 3-6 hours after the onset of the heart attack are utterly critical. First, most of the lethal arrhythmias seen with acute heart attacks occur during the first few hours. If these arrhythmias occur while the victim is under medical attention, they can virtually always be stopped in time to prevent a catastrophe. What this means, of course, is that if a patient having a heart attack tries to "ride it out" at home for a while, hoping the symptoms are due to indigestion or muscle strain, or if the medical personnel delay instituting therapy for any reason, the delay can lead to devastating and permanent results. Further, if the artery can be opened within the first few hours after the blockage occurs, much of the dying heart muscle can be saved, much of the permanent heart damage can be avoided, and the patient’s risk of death or permanent disability can be greatly diminished. But if treatment is delayed beyond 6 hours, the amount of heart muscle that can still be saved drops off significantly.

Heart attacks are survivable. Many people who have a heart attack return to full functioning in their daily lives. The key is to know beforehand what to do.

More information on heart attack (myocardial infarction)

What's a heart attack (myocardial infarction)? - A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is the death of heart muscle from the sudden blockage of a coronary artery by a blood clot.
What're the signs and symptoms of a heart attack? - Symptoms of a heart attack include pain and pressure in the chest, which often spread to the shoulder, arm, and neck.
What're the women's heart attack symptoms? - A woman's heart attack has more varied symptoms than a man's. Women are more likely to have nausea and pain high in the abdomen.
What're the warning signs of a heart attack? - Warning signs of a heart attack include uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest, cold sweat or paleness.
What causes a heart attack? - Heart attack is caused by a lack of blood supply to the heart for an extended time period. The most common cause of heart attack is atherosclerosis.
What're the complications of a heart attack? - Complications of a heart attack include ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, cardiogenic shock, arrhythmias, heart failure.
What're the risk factors for heart attack? - Heart attack risk factors can be devided into two groups: Inherited (or genetic) risk factors and acquired risk factors.
How is a heart attack diagnosed? - The most important factor in diagnosing and treating a heart attack is prompt medical attention. For a complete diagnosis, the medical history is vital.
What're the treatments for heart attack? - The goal of treatment for heart attack is to quickly open the blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart muscle, a process called reperfusion.
What drugs are used to cure heart attack? - Medications used to treat heart attacks include blood vessel dilators, clot busters, beta blockers, antiarrhythmic drugs, pain relievers.
What surgeries treat heart attacks? - Surgeries to treat heart attacks include coronary angioplasty, coronary artery bypass surgery, transmyocardial revascularization, and atherectomy.
Aspirin and heart attacks - Aspirin is taken daily following a heart attack to reduce the risk of another heart attack. Aspirin reduces heart attacks and improve survival in the patients.
How to survive a heart attack? - In wilderness first aid, a possible heart attack justifies medical evacuation by the fastest available means. Heart attacks are survivable.
How to prevent a heart attack? - Heart attack can be prevented with a healthy liestyle. Daily aspirin therapy or other medical treatment help prevent heart disease and heart attack.
How to recover after a heart attack? - Following discharge from the hospital, patients continue their recovery at home. Lowering cholesterol can reduce the risk for another heart attack.
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Topics in heart disease and cardiovascular disorders

Coronary circulation disorders
Myocardium disorders
Heart valve disorders
Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
Heart inflammation and infection
Congenital heart disease
Valvular disease (blood vessels disorders)
Procedures done for coronary artery disease
Devices used in cardiology
Diagnostic tests and procedures for heart diseases
Heart transplant

Featured articles on heart disease and cardiovascular disorders

Coronary artery disease
Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
Cardiac arrhythmia
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Congestive heart failure
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Atrial fibrillation

All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005