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heart attack

Q. What is a heart attack?

A heart attack happens when the supply of oxygen rich blood to the heart muscle is blocked. If the blockage isn’t removed quickly then the affected heart muscle begins to die.

Q. What causes the blood supply to the heart to become blocked?

The blood vessels of the heart are called “coronary arteries” and the most common cause of a heart attack occurs with something called coronary heart disease or CHD. In CHD a waxy substance (called plaque) collects in the lining of the blood vessels (this is known as atherosclerosis) and as it builds up it can sometimes crack which will cause a blood clot to form on it. If the clot is big enough it will block the coronary arteries and, if untreated, will cause the heart muscle to die.

FACT : Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in Qatar.

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Q. What are the signs of a heart attack?

A. Heart attack symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. This may be a feeling of pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center, or left side of the chest, that can be mild or strong. This discomfort, or pain, often lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, which may occur with or before chest discomfort.
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting, light-headedness or sudden dizziness, or breaking out in a cold sweat.
  • Symptoms also may include sleep problems, fatigue (tiredness), and lack of energy.

Act Fast!

If you think you or someone else may be having a heart attack, call 9–9–9 right away. Don’t wait more than 5 minutes at most. Quick treatment can save your life. If symptoms stop completely in less than 5 minutes you should still call your healthcare provider. Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.

Many more people could survive or recover better from heart attacks if they got help faster. Of the people who die from heart attacks, about half die within an hour of the first symptoms and before they reach the hospital. Clot-busting drugs and other artery-opening treatments work best if given within 1 hour of the start of symptoms.

How to reduce the risk of having a heart attack

Things you can control:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • An unhealthy diet (for example, a diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and salt).
  • Lack of routine physical activity
  • High blood sugar or diabetes.

Things you can’t control:

  • Age. The risk of heart disease increases for men after age 45 and for women after age 55 (or after menopause).
  • Family history of early heart disease. Your risk increases if your father or a brother was diagnosed with heart disease before 55 years of age, or if your mother or a sister was diagnosed with heart disease before 65 years of age.

Lowering your risk means taking action on all of the points listed above that are in your control. The most important things you can do are to follow a heart healthy lifestyle and get ongoing care for any existing health issues that you have.

Heart Healthy Lifestyle:

  • Following a healthy diet is an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugars.
  • If you’re overweight or obese, work with your doctor to create a reasonable weight-loss plan that involves diet and physical activity.
  • Be as physically active as you can. Physical activity can improve your fitness level and your health. Talk with your doctor about what types of activity are safe for you. To get the most benefit you need to be active enough to make you feel warm and slightly out of breath but still able to have a conversation. It is important to build up gradually the amount of activity that you do. You should be aiming for at least 30 minutes regular physical activity a day on at least five days a week.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking can raise your risk of CHD and heart attack. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.

Treat related conditions

If you already suffer from:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes

Then you will need to work with your doctor to manage these conditions. If they are left untreated, or if you don’t follow your doctor’s advice, then your risk of suffering a heart attack is greatly increased.

What to do if you think someone is having a heart attack

  • Send someone to call 999 for an ambulance immediately.
  • If you are alone, go and call 999 immediately and then come straight back to the person.
  • Get the person to sit in a comfortable position, stay with them and keep them calm.
  • If the person is not allergic to aspirin, give them an adult aspirin tablet (300mg) to chew if there is one easily available. If you don’t have an aspirin next to you, or if you don’t know if the person is allergic to aspirin, just get him or her to stay resting until the ambulance arrives.

What to do if you think you are having a heart attack:

  • Sit or lie down and try to relax as much as possible.
  • Call for emergency help at once by dialing 999. Don’t waste time calling your own doctor or a friend or family member.
  • Describe your symptoms briefly and clearly. For instance, tell the emergency dispatcher, “I’m having severe chest pain and trouble breathing.”