Each year, more than a million Americans suffer a heart attack. Although heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, great strides have been made in the last decade, both in treating heart attacks and in helping people who have suffered one resume a full, active life.The most common type of heart attack is caused by a coronary thrombosis, which occurs when a clot thrombus blocks one or more of the blood vessels that nourish the heart muscle. As a result of the lack of blood, part of the muscle may be damaged, and its ability to contract may be lost. This is known as a myocardial infarction. If the infarct is small and the electrical impulses that control the heart’s contractions beats are not disturbed, chances for recovery are excellent.Coronary thrombosis is one of the manifestations of coronary artery disease. As we grow older, our blood vessels tend to lose their elasticity, a process known as arteriosclerosis.
The arteries may also become narrowed or clogged with deposits of fatty material called atheromas, a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is progressive and usually does not produce symptoms until there is significant blockage in the blood flow. Sometimes, in fact, the first symptom of this heart disease is a heart attack.Although the specific cause of atherosclerosis is not known, it has been found that certain risk factors help in identifying population groups that are more likely to develop it. Three major risk factors are high levels of cholesterol and other blood fats, high blood pressure hypertension and cigarette smoking. Others include diabetes, obesity, a sedentary life style, aging, being male and heredity.Atherosclerosis begins forming as a fatty streak on the inner wall of an artery, usually at its branching out point, and disturbs the smooth flow of blood. As patches of fatty tissue build up, the inner wall become narrower, which inhibits blood flow in a more significant way?
Heart attacks sometimes occur in people with little or no coronary artery disease. Some experts believe that a spasm or sudden constriction of the coronary artery may be the cause of these heart attacks. It appears that a spasm may occur in a coronary artery that is totally free of atherosclerosis and in one that is heavily affected by that condition, and this would explain why many people suffer angina and other cardiac problems without any evidence of underlying blockage in the arteries.Most deaths from heart attack occur within minutes to hours after the onset of symptoms.
Therefore, when sudden and severe chest pain occurs, an ambulance should be called immediately and the individual taken to a hospital. Denying that these symptoms represent a life-threatening illness may cause a delay that could be fatal.One of the major cause of death from coronary thrombosis is the development of abnormal heart rhythms in the hours immediately following the attack. Emergency treatment, therefore, concentrates on stabilizing the heart rhythm, and on relieving pain and preventing shock.