As per statistics, South Asians account for 60% of world’s coronary artery disease (CAD), which is a precursor to a heart attack in most cases. This disease is a major cause of mortality in India. The young, in the age bracket of 35-55, are also falling prey to Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) because of the present day urban lifestyle which includes factors such as low levels of physical activity, greater alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity and last but not the least, increased stress levels. Today, we are going to share with you some important information about heart attack.
What is a Heart Attack?
The heart is basically a muscle which requires a steady supply of blood to remain healthy. A heart attack occurs when a segment of the heart muscle dies due to loss of blood supply.
- As we age, the smooth inner walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart become damaged and narrow due to building up of fatty materials called plaque.
- Sometimes an area of the plaque breaks and blood cells stick to it forming blood clots.
- A heart attack occurs when this blood clot blocks the artery supplying blood to the heart.
- This results in some of the heart muscle dying and if the blockage is left untreated, the damage is permanent.
Here are a few of the causes of heart attack in young adults:
- Kawasaki disease– This is a childhood disease. Though rare, it involves the inflammation of the blood vessels. When the disease affects the coronary arteries carrying oxygen-rich blood to the heart, it causes heart problems which may lead to a heart attack.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy- This is inherited heart disease and a common cause of heart attack in the young, especially athletes. This disease involves an enlargement of the cardiac muscle cells due to mutation of the genes in the heart muscles. In such cases, the heart’s pump called the ventricles thicken, blocking the blood flow. The ventricles thus have to work harder to pump blood and in such a situation physical activity is unsafe. This condition escapes early detection due to which the young succumb to a heart attack.
- Lifestyle- Lifestyle choices also lead to threats to the heart. Smoking is, of course, the biggest threat, followed by obesity and lack of physical activity.
- Sudden Exercise- While regular exercise reduces the risk of heart attack, if one has lived a sedentary life, a sudden bout of energetic activity can trigger a heart attack. A study by the American Medical Association shows that episodic physical activity roughly tripled the risk of heart attack.
Symptoms in Young Adults
The symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, jaw pain, and vomiting.
- Age – Generally the plaque over the inner walls of the artery form with age and thus men over 45 and women over 55 are more likely to get a heart attack.
- High Cholesterol levels increase the chance of blood clots in the arteries leading to heart attack.
- Diabetic people are more susceptible to a heart attack.
- Hypertension is another major cause because it puts a strain on the heart.
- Obesity can put pressure on the heart
- Stressful jobs can lead to heart attacks.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Diagnosis of any heart problem is done via electrocardiogram (ECG), blood tests, chest X-ray, and coronary angiogram.
Emergency treatment includes medicines to dissolve clots. Aspirin can be used which helps in stopping the blood clot from growing larger. The medical staff may also use the defibrillator in case the heart has stopped beating. The controlled electric shock may help in making the heart beat again.
Once in the hands of the doctors, the following treatments are given based on requirement:
- Angioplasty and stent implantation
- Bypass surgery
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
SCA is different from a heart attack. This is a sudden and unexpected life-threatening emergency. In SCA there is an electrical disturbance in the heart and the ventricles stop pumping blood, stopping blood flow to the entire body. The heartbeat rhythm is controlled by its own Electrical Stimulation. When this rhythm is not normal it is called Arrhythmias. SCA occurs when the heart develops an arrhythmia condition and the heart just stops beating. The causes of SCA are as follows:
- Irregularities in the heartbeat due to rapid electrical impulses which make the heart quiver instead of pumping blood.
- Coronary heart diseases
- Choking, hypothermia, electrocution.
- Drowning, trauma, asphyxia.
- Drugs overdose, a dramatic drop in blood pressure.
Prevention: Diagnosis and Test
SCA, as the name suggests, is sudden. There is no way of detecting an onset of SCA. However, a regular check-up including ECG, a blood test for cholesterol sugar and protein, and a regular stress test can help prevent SCA.
Lifestyle choices play a major role in the condition of the heart. Regular exercise, no tobacco, healthy diet, stress-free life are a few mantras for a healthy heart and a healthy body.