Myocardial infarction is a pathology characterised by the death of a portion of the heart muscle that occurs when a coronary artery is completely obstructed.
In the circumstances in which the obstruction occurs, the blood supply is suppressed. If the heart muscle lacks oxygen for too long, the tissue in that area dies and does not regenerate.
According to research, when people reach middle age and affect both men and women. “In women, the disease manifests about ten years later than in men, so the myth that ischemic heart disease does not affect women is a lie. This is because the hormonal situation of the menstruating woman means that she is more protected against the risk of suffering a myocardial infarction.
The results of the Recalcar registry, a report carried out by the SEC with patient data based on discharge reports from hospitals throughout Spain, indicate that there are currently some 52,000 hospitalised heart attacks per year. This figure has decreased slightly in recent years and is now stable.
“We must remember that there are patients with heart attacks who die before reaching the hospital, so we find a significant percentage of patients who are not accounted for within these 52,000 cases.
The leading cause of myocardial infarction is the obstruction of the coronary arteries. For the heart to function properly, blood must circulate through the coronary arteries. However, these arteries can become narrow, making it difficult to circulate.
If the heart is exposed to overexertion, disorders can appear and form a clot that, in turn, can cover a semi-clogged artery. This obstruction cuts off the blood supply to the heart muscle fibres. When they stop receiving blood, these fibres die irreversibly. Myocardial infarction occurs when a blood clot (coronary thrombosis) blocks a narrowed artery. Usually, myocardial infarction does not happen suddenly. Instead, it can be caused by atherosclerosis, a prolonged process that narrows the coronary vessels.
Some factors can accelerate the deterioration of the arteries and cause them to become clogged. Tobacco, cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension as cardiovascular risk factors that force the heart to work in the worst conditions.
Currently, myocardial infarctions have increased in young people. This increase is linked to drug use. “We have found that most young heart attacks are directly related to cocaine use. Also, they do not need to be large consumption”. “When we see a heart attack under the age of 40, we always look to see if there is cocaine in the body.”
The classic description of a heart attack is crushing pain in the centre of the chest radiating to the arms (especially the left), neck and back. “This is a subjective feeling of the patient. In some, the pain is sometimes transformed into oppression; in others, in discomfort,” says the specialist. “Due to these subjective differences, health professionals have the obligation that, before any discomfort that occurs from the waist up and that is affecting the patient, perform an electrocardiogram that will reveal if the heart is suffering.”
The usual symptoms are:
- Intense and prolonged chest pain is perceived as intense pressure and can spread to the arms and shoulders (especially the left), back and even teeth and jaw. The pain is described as a huge fist that twists the heart. It is similar to angina pectoris but more prolonged and does not stop even if a nitroglycerin tablet is applied under the tongue.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Dizziness in ten per cent of cases.
Others: Nausea, vomiting and fainting may occur.
The risk of having a heart attack can be avoided by following some healthy lifestyle guidelines:
- Give up smoking.
- Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals. “It has been shown that the Mediterranean diet is the most efficient to prevent both the appearance of heart attacks and recurrences”, adds Lidón.
- Perform aerobic physical exercise. The president of the Ischemic Heart Disease and Acute Cardiovascular Care section of the SEC advises that the best practices for the heart are walking, cycling or swimming. “Walking 30 minutes a day in the morning and the afternoon is a guarantee of success for heart health and would help control cardiovascular risk factors.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages.
Prognosis of the disease
The improvement of the disease is subject to obesity, which also has a negative impact on others, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
“Obesity is one of the most important problems today. The increase in incidence is already seen in both child age groups and juveniles and adults. This pathology increases blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol levels and is a risk factor. Even though with all the treatments we are improving the life prognosis of the heart attack, factors such as diabetes cause heart attacks to occur at earlier ages”, says Lidón.
The specialist specifies that the prognosis of the disease is that knowledge about it is increasing even though it continues to kill without doctors being able to do anything in many cases. “She has lost some of the extreme gravity that she had before. However, we have a challenge: there is still a high percentage of patients who die before reaching the hospital, which will increase with risk factors that are not controlled”.