Heart attacks are scary to think about, but arming yourself with a little knowledge can bring comfort and preparedness. Here's what actually happens during a heart attack and what the treatment options are.
Not everyone exhibits the same signs of a heart attack, such as pain in their chest or left arm, but inside their body they're going through a similar experience. Usually, a blockage, like plaque buildup or a blood clot, prevents oxygenated blood from getting to the heart which causes heart muscle cell death. The heart may not be able to pump blood as well or have an irregular beat as a result. If the person having the heart attacks survives long enough to get treatment, here are their main options.
- Take medication, like aspirin (to thin the blood) and nitroglycerin (to open the artery) to help blood flow resume.
- Locate blockages so doctors can reopen blocked arteries with a balloon, a method known as an angioplasty.
- Insert a stent to keep the artery open and blood flowing.
- Undergo bypass surgery, where a doctor diverts blood flow from a badly blocked artery through an artery or vein taken from another part of the body.
While heart attack treatment is getting better, your best option is to avoid one by managing your risk factors.
What Happens During a Heart Attack? [Ted-Ed (YouTube)]