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The incidence of myocardial infarction popularly known as heart attack is on the rise globally and indeed in Nigeria. If detected early it can be managed. The greatest challenge is knowing when one is having a heart attack and being able to take the right steps to get the needed help. In most cases a single episode may not be fatal, but unfortunately in some cases it could be life threatening. Knowing what to do in such situations is vital in determining whether you will survive or not.
This write up aims to educate you about myocardial infarction, how to prevent it and what to do when you or someone around you is having a heart attack. You may save a life!
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when a part of the heart is starved of oxygen supply for a long time, this leads to death of the heart tissue a condition called cardiac ischaemia. Persistent lack of oxygen supply eventually leads to myocardial infarction or death of the heart muscle.
What Are the Symptoms?
Chest pain is the most common symptom. Sometimes it manifests as discomfort which could spread to the shoulder, arm, back, neck or jaw. It may feel like a heart burn, shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, cold sweat. In some patients there may not be any symptoms. It is therefore important to have your blood pressure checked regularly say once in a month. If you have experienced any of these symptoms see your doctor immediately. DO NOT DISMISS IT JUST BECAUSE THE PAIN HAS GONE!
What are the Causes
Coronary artery disease such as rupture of an atherosclerotic plague which cause blockage of the arteries that are involved in the transport of blood into the cardiac muscles.
Are You at Risk?
Certain habits or illness can pre-dispose one to a heart attack such as high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes mellitus, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood cholesterol and excessive alcohol intake
a) Ensure you get blood pressure monitor so you can regularly check your blood pressure.
b) Get a regular schedule of exercise and reduce stress and anxiety by making time to relax and rest
c) Avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol; foods containing low density cholesterol such as red meat, highly processed foods containing saturated fats such as cakes, cookies, pastries and doughnut.
d) Monitor your blood sugar regularly, high blood sugar damages your arteries. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, grains and foods rich in omega-3 like cat fish.
e) Take food supplements and vitamins to boost your daily nutrient supply. Food supplements rich in omega-3 are highly recommended.
What You can do to Help Someone having a Heart Attack
a) Call for help to rush the person to the nearest hospital. Make sure you always have your physician’s contact number so that you can call before getting to the nearest hospital.
b) Get the patient to a safe place and have him/her sit on the floor to a wall with back straight and knees up.
c) If patient is conscious and breathing, give the patient 300mg aspirin tablet to CHEW and swallow, keep the patient calm with reassuring words.
d) If patient is unconscious, if there is no pulse and no sign off breathing do a cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with compression. If patient has a pulse without adequate breathing, provide rescue ventilation without compression.