The most likely cause of death for a person over the age of 44 is due to cardiovascular disease. The main threat is from acute myocardial infarctions, also known as heart attacks. Heart attacks can be misclassified as sudden cardiac death or cardiac arrest which can or might not be caused by an acute myocardial infraction. In this blog we will focus on the myocardial infractions which is the medical term of heart attacks. Heart attacks have two different classifications, have unique signs and symptoms, causes and risk factors associated with them.
The two main types of acute myocardial infractions are trans-mural and subendocardial. Transfurmal infractions are usually the result of complete obstruction of blood supply. These infractions can be further sub classified based on location of the transfurmal infraction. Subendocardial infractions are caused due to more local reduction of blood supply likely through thinning of coronary arteries. Both infractions involve reduced blood flow to the heart.
The signs and symptoms of myocardial infraction (MI) can be fairly recognizable to a person well trained in first aid. Red Cross programs that involve training in recognition and treatment of heart attacks include standard first aid training and emergency first aid training. Training in CPR courses (register for CPR training with Vancouver First Aid) also touches on recognizing and treating MI’s. The signs and symptoms of myocardial infarctions is typically gradual and can take several minutes. The symptoms are rarely instantaneous. The most common symptom is chest pain which is due to ischemia which is the lack of oxygenated blood supply to the heart. Pain radiates outward from the chest. Pain can radiate often to the left arm, but may also radiate to the jaw, neck, right arm, back, stomach. Symptoms of heartburn can mimic that of a heart attack. Dyspnea, which is shortness of breath can also occur in more severe cases as damage to the heart limits the left ventricle. Consequently pulmonary edema can form. More minor symptoms can include: sweating, weakness, light headedness, nausea and vomiting. Grasping of the chest is not a significant sign of MI. Heart attacks in woman are more likely to include the symptoms of shortness of breath, weakness and fatigue. Chest pain is not a major symptom of heart attacks in women. 25 percent of all myocardial infarctions are without chest pain (silent heart attacks) or without other symptoms. “Silent” heart attacks are more common in elderly patients.
Heart attack causes can be divided into acute (recent) causes lifestyle and hereditary (inherited) causes. Acute causes include higher rates of intense exertion and psychological stress. Long term, preventive, lifestyle causes to heart attacks including: poor physical conditioning, poor diet, smoking and increased hypertension. Medical conditions such as pneuomenia can increase risk to myocardial infarction. Risk factors include age, diabetes, high blood pressure, tobacco and second hand smoke, air pollution, obesity, stress and alcohol. Men over the age of 45 are at a higher risk than women.
Although some people may fall victim to myocardial infarctions regardless of lifestyle, for many of us our risk of heart attacks is modifiable. Prevention is the most important factor to surviving myocardial infarctions. Living a healthy lifestyle which includes consistent exercise and a healthy diet drastically decrease the chances of having a heart attack. To learn to further recognize and treat heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases take a first aid and or CPR course from a credible provider. Save your life through a healthy lifestyle and save the life of a loved one by taking a first aid course.