Heart Attack Causes, Symptoms, Risk and Treatment Ultimate Guide

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is diseases of heart and circulation. These are the main cause of death in the UK in which nearly 180 000 deaths a year, and over 46 000 of these are premature deaths. Approximately, one in three people in the UK dies from cardiovascular disease. A heart attack is when one or more of the coronary arteries become blocked and the oxygen cannot reach the heart.

Risk Factors For Cardiovascular Disease:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Blood cholesterol and other dietary factors such as LDL‘bad’ cholesterol because it transfers cholesterol from the liver to the bloodstream where it is accumulated so less oxygen-rich blood ca be transported to the heart muscle.
  • Smoking cigarette toxic can damage the endothelium that can cause blockage in the artery leading to a heart attack.
  • Inactivity
  • Genetic inheritance
  • Stress
  • High level of salt
  • Alcohol high level.

How A Heart Attack Occurs?

A heart attack is caused when the endothelium, a layer of cells that lines the inside of an artery is damaged from high blood pressure or toxic from cigarette smoke in the bloodstream. This leads to an inflammatory response in which the white blood cells accumulate chemicals from the blood and it builds a fatty deposit called an atheroma. Furthermore, calcium salts and fibrous tissues build up at the site of infection that causes hard swelling in the wall of the artery called plaque and it blocks inner wall of the artery leading to narrowing of the artery lumen.

Anaerobic respiration takes place due to less oxygen reaching the heart muscle so it results in chest pain called angina. Angina is normally experienced during exertion when the cardiac muscle is working harder and need to respire more. However, if the plaque in the coronary arteries ruptures then the collagen is exposed that leads to a rapid blood clot. Therefore, the blood supply to the heart may be blocked completely leading to heart cells being damaged.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Angina is often the first sign of heart disease such as intense pain, ache or feeling of constriction ad discomfort in the chest or in the left arm
  • Feeling of heaviness
  • Severe indigestion
  • Tightness
  • Burning
  • Pressure
  • Often heart disease causes the heart to beat irregularly known as arrhythmia.

Treatment of Cardiovascular disease:

Controlling Blood Pressure:

When a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure then changes in diet and lifestyle are essential. Furthermore, medications are available for lowering high BP such as antihypertensives:

  • Antihypertensive – beta-blockers are drugs that are used to reduce high blood pressure. The use of this drug lowers the strength of the heartbeat and causes vasodilatation which is widening of the blood vessels. Therefore, there is less chance of damage occurring to the walls of the arteries and it decreases the risk of atheroma formation.

There are three main types of antihypertensive drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure such as:

  1. ACE (angiotensin-converting enzymes) inhibitors: they are used to reduce the synthesis of angiotensin II, a hormone that causes vasoconstriction (narrowing) of blood vessels to help control blood pressure. Hence, ACE inhibitors prevent the production of the hormone so it reduces vasoconstriction and lowering blood pressure.
  2. Calcium channel blockers: these drugs inhibit the calcium channels in the muscle cells in the lining of arteries. In order for muscles to contract for movement, calcium ions need to pass through these channels. Nevertheless, these drugs prevent muscle contraction to lower blood pressure.
  3. Diuretics: It increases the volume of urine produced by the kidneys and therefore it gets rid of excess waste fluids and salts. This decreases the volume of blood plasma and cardiac output (it is the volume of blood removed from the heart per minute), which reduces blood pressure.

Benefits of Antihypertensives:

  • There are different antihypertensives that work in diverse different ways, so the drug is provided in combination to reduce blood pressure.
  • Moreover, the blood pressure can be monitored at home thereby, patients can see if the drug is working.

Risks of Antihypertensives:

  • ACE inhibitors cause a dry cough, dizziness due to quick lowering of blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms as well as a reduction in the functioning of the kidney.
  • Calcium channels blockers have side effects such as swollen ankles, abnormal heart rhythms, flushing red in the face, constipation, headaches and dizziness.
  • People taking Diuretics have some side effects that include dizziness, nausea or muscle cramps. Furthermore, if a person is taking these drugs then it is important not to have too much salt in the diet.

Reducing Blood Cholesterol Levels

People that have high cholesterol level are at the 20% risk of developing CVD in the next 10 years. Considering this in mind, scientists have done research to develop a drug to reduce cholesterol level called Statins that is very effective:

  • Statins – it reduces blood cholesterol in human by decreasing LDL cholesterol level produced in the liver by inhibiting an enzyme involved in the production of LDL cholesterol. Therefore, Statins reduces the chance of atheroma formation.

Benefits of Statins:

  • Statins are successfully able to lower the LDL cholesterol level in the bloodstream so it overall reduces the chance of getting CVD.
  • A decrease in the LDL level causes the body to function accurately.

Risk of Statins:

  • Side effects of Statins are that it causes muscle and joint pain, digestive system problems as well as it increases the risk of diabetes, nosebleeds, headaches and nausea.

Anticoagulants and Platelet inhibitors

  • Anticoagulants – Warfarin and Heparin is the drugs that lower the chances of blood clot formation. This means blood clot is less likely to be formed at the site of damage in the artery wall. Hence, less there is less chance of a blood vessel becoming blocked by a blood clot.
  • Platelet inhibitory drugs – Aspirin is one of the drugs and its job is to prevent platelets clumping together to form a blood clot. Therefore, it reduces the chance of blood vessels becoming blocked by a clot.

Benefits of using these drugs for CVD treatment:

  • Anticoagulants and platelet inhibitory drugs prevent any existing blood clots from becoming any larger and it prevents new blood clot developing. However, anticoagulants do not get rid of the existing blood clots.

Risks of using these drugs for CVD treatment:

  • If people taking anticoagulants are injured badly then a reduction in the formation of a blood clot could lead to excessive bleeding which can cause the person to faint. Other side effects include allergic reactions, osteoporosis (weakening of bones) and swelling of the tissues.
  • Platelets inhibitory drugs trigger rashes, diarrhoea, nausea, liver functioning problems and excessive bleeding after serious accidents.


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