Various factors come into force to trigger a heart attack, such as smoking, a high-fat diet, high cholesterol and hypertension. This isn’t to say that all these lifestyle habits and conditions need to apply before a deadly attack. When blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked, usually by a build-up of fat and cholesterol, the cells begin to die – this is a heart attack. However, many people have warning signs “weeks in advance” that a heart attack is imminent, the Mayo Clinic confirmed.
Common signs of a heart attack
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness.
A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is a medical emergency.
Anybody showcasing such signs requires a prompt call to the ambulance to go to the nearest hospital.
The person affected should only drive themselves to the hospital “if there are no other options”.
That’s because the condition can worsen, meaning driving yourself to hospital can put yourself and others in danger.
If needs be, call for a cab or have somebody close by to drive you to the hospital.
What causes a heart attack?
The leading cause of a heart attack is coronary artery disease, which is where plaques of fat and cholesterol narrow the arteries.
“During a heart attack, a plaque can rupture and spill cholesterol and other substances into the bloodstream,” the Mayo Clinic said.
“A blood clot forms at the site of the rupture. If the clot is large, it can block blood flow through the coronary artery, starving the heart of oxygen and nutrients.”
Another cause of a heart attack is a spasm of a coronary artery that cuts off blood flow to the heart muscle.
“Using tobacco and illicit drugs, such as cocaine, can cause a life-threatening spasm,” the Mayo Clinic warned.
“Infection with COVID-19 also may damage your heart in ways that result in a heart attack.”
The complete list of risk factors for having a heart attack include:
- Men over the age of 45
- Women over the age of 55
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High triglyceride
- Metabolic syndrome
- Family history of heart attacks
- Lack of physical activity
- Illicit drug use
- A history of preeclampsia
- An autoimmune condition.
Many people can, and do, survive a heart attack, but there are risks of complications.
One such complication is the development of an abnormal heart rhythm, which can eventually be fatal.