Tips about heart attacks

Health Watch

A TEAM from the Port Moresby General Hospital celebrated World Heart Day yesterday to raise awareness, share knowledge and stories with their patients, family and friends on the importance of a healthy heart.
The team, from the catheterisation laboratory, promoted the theme “With a healthy heart, the beat goes on”.

Heart attack:
What you need to know
The heart is a fist-size organ which lies in the centre of the chest.
Its main function is to pump blood to the lungs where the blood is replenished with oxygen.
Then it’s pumped to the rest of the body.
For the heart to function properly, it receives blood rich with oxygen via blood vessels called the coronary arteries.
Heart attack happens when the coronary arteries become narrow from the buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substance that together are called plaque.
This slow process is called atherosclerosis.
When the plaque within a heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque.
This blood clot can block the blood flow through the artery to the heart muscle.
Ischemia results when the heart is starved of oxygen and nutrients.
When a part of the heart muscle occurs as a result of ischemia, it’s called a heart attack.

Factors that can be changed are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes mellitus.
Factors that cannot be changed include age, gender, ethnicity, hereditary, menopause.

Signs and symptoms
Chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the upper part of the body, arms, back, neck and jaw, central chest pain described as heavy or crushing sensation (30 mintutes) and not relieved with rest or usual medication for chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, light-headedness.

What to do in a heart attack incident
Recognise the warning signs of the heart attack, call for an ambulance, inform someone of the situation and have someone keep watch on the patient, get the patient to stop all activities, sit or lie down and wait for transport to the nearest hospital.

Characteristic of the chest pain, electrocardiography and blood test confirm diagnosis of a heart attack.

Goal: Early diagnosis and to open up the blocked artery quickly and effectively to minimise the extent of damage of the heart muscle.

Medication (heart medication to thin the blood)
Inserting a balloon or stent.

What to do after the attack

  • CARDIAC rehabilitation;
  • HEALTH education to patient and family;
  • RISK factor and behavioural changes;
  • DIET change to healthy diet; and,
  • MEDICATION (take medication as prescribed by the doctor).

When can the patient return to normal activity
Every patient is different and should consult their doctor on when to resume normal activities.

  • WORK– not physically demanding or stressful;
  • DRIVING: three to five weeks after heart attack;
  • NO strenuous or contact sports; and,
  • EXERCISE (on doctor’s advice).