A heart attack happens when there is a sudden blockage of an artery that supplies blood to an area of your heart.
As people age, the smooth inner walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart can become damaged and narrow due to the build-up of fatty materials called plaque.
When an area of plaque breaks, blood cells and other parts of the blood stick to the damaged area and form blood clots.
A heart attack occurs when a blood clot completely blocks the flow of blood and reduces blood flow to the heart muscle, resulting in chest pain.
Chest pain is commonly described by those who have had a heart attack. Some people describe it as a belt tightening around their chest or bad indigestion.
However, there are other symptoms that can alert you. The warning signs may not be what you think and can vary from person to person.
If you think you are having a heart attack, call Triple Zero (000) promptly and do not hang up. Ask the operator for an ambulance.
Once you are taken to hospital, the health care team will conduct some tests to find out if you are having a heart attack so they can decide the best course of treatment for you. These may include an electrocardiogram, blood tests, chest x-ray and coronary angiogram.
You may also need to have a procedure to prevent future problems like a stent implantation, angioplasty or bypass surgery.
LIVING A HEALTHY LIFE
Setting goals for your health is an important part of your recovery from a heart attack.
Medical treatments and healthy lifestyle choices can help you recover from a heart attack and greatly reduce the risk of problems later down the track.
It is important to look after yourself by staying active and following a healthy eating plan.
If you are overweight, it is also beneficial to reach and keep a healthy weight.
Smokers are also advised to give up the habit and reduce their exposure to second-hand smoke. It is best to speak to your doctor about what is best for you and your lifestyle situation.
Your doctor may also check your cholesterol and blood pressure on a regular basis and ask to screen you for diabetes as there is a correlation between the two chronic illnesses.
It is normal to feel many different emotions if you have a heart attack. Most of these feelings will reduce over time, however if they get worse, it is best to discuss this with your doctor.
For more information about heart health, visit www.heartfoundation.org.au or call the Heart Foundation Helpline on
13 11 12.