Heart Attack and High Blood Pressure

Heart diseases and cancer are non-infectious disease and main factor responsible for loss of life for present society. Speaking of mortality rates- around 2.5 million Indians and 1.1 million Americans, including men and women, die each year as a result of heart diseases only. This disease has no bias, it doesn’t look for age, gender, rich or poor, urban or rural or regions where you live, it can affect you the same way as others and consequences are same i.e. death if not treated in the required time period.

What is more important in case of any heart disease is the awareness of disease. Heart disease doesn’t erupt out suddenly; it develops in body slowly without showing any specific sign and symptoms. We are aware of the term ‘silent killer’ for high blood pressure. So, there it won’t be considered wrong if we assign the same for heart disease because the ultimate result of high blood pressure is heart attack or stroke. Yes its true heart attack is result of high blood pressure but along with them others factors like diabetes, high cholesterol level, overweight plays equal role. So if you are having HBP or diabetes, you should be aware of the possible risk and take strict measures to control it. Before switching to how can you prevent heart attack, let’s discuss about link between heart attack and high blood pressure.

Hhat is Heart Attack?

A heart attack is the permanent damage to heart muscles caused by reduction in blood supply to heart by coronary arteries.  Heart muscles get damage due to blockage in coronary arteries. The blockage in arteries is due to the process of Atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a process where plaques of cholesterol get gradually deposited into the wall of arteries. This results in narrowing and hardening of arteries and thus the supply of blood decreases to certain parts of body.  If the atherosclerosis develops in coronary artery, it is known as coronary atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD). The disease caused by reduction in blood supply to heart muscles as a result of CAD, is known as coronary heart disorder (CHD), which includes heart attack, angina, stroke, abnormal heart rhythm and heart failure.

Sometimes the surface of plaques gets rupture and clots forms at the surface of plaque which results in complete blockage of blood flow through the artery that finally results in Heart Attack or Myocardial Infarction (MI). Blood flow to the heart should be resumed in 6-8 hrs. Period otherwise it will lead to permanent heart muscles damage. Heart attack can occur at any time, but mostly observed early morning i.e. between 4:00 AM TO 10: AM, because adrenaline is mostly secreted in this time period which promotes rupture of plaques.

Heart attack and high blood pressure are connected because high blood pressure puts extra pressure on to the arterial wall which can cause damage in walls and thus promotes plaque formation.

The outcome of MI depends upon the extent of damage to heart muscles and area of blockage in coronary artery, if damage is severe, you may get heart failure with MI itself. Also MI increases the risk of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia due to electrical instability during heart attack. Also scar tissue that results from healing process may lead to permanent electrical instability. So, risk of sudden death or cardiac arrest is there during heart attack and even after recovery from MI.

“Factors of Risk” for Heart Attack

There can be 100 of factors responsible for plaque formation within arteries, but let’s sort out some of the key factors wherein you can focus to minimise the risk of heart attack

  • Age- Men above 45yrs of age and women above 55yrs are more likely to have heart attack than young men and women. The prevalence of heart attack is more in men’s as compared to women. 20.3 % of men were reported with the case of heart attack but for women it’s 16.9%. However, risk for women is low only until menopause. After menopause risk becomes equal to men. heart attack and high blood pressure
  • Smoking.
  • Alcohol drinking.
  • Stress.
  • Obesity.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol level.
  • Family history of heart disorder.

We cannot change or modify factors like gender, age or family history. So certain modifiable factors like weight, drinking and smoking habits, high BP and High cholesterol level should be given prime importance. Slight improvement in any of these factors can significantly affect your health. Remember, it’s never too late to start.

Signs of Heart attack

Heart attack is recognised by sudden and intense or sometimes mild pain in or around the chest which often radiates to the jaw or left arm. The specific signs and symptoms of heart attack are listed below  –

  • Headache, jaw pain, tooth ache.
  • Sweating.
  • Nausea, vomiting.
  • Heartburn or indigestion.
  • General malaise (feeling of illness).
  • Upper back pain.

These symptoms can be mild in nature and you may sometimes take these symptoms liberally and may not take it as heart problem, which results in delay in medical treatment and if so occur results can be fatal. Remember, the person having one or more above mentioned risk factor for CAD should suspect of having heart attack and should take immediate action if he /she closely observe any unusual, sudden or unexplained symptoms mainly in upper part of body. Women are not recognised easily with heart attack as compared to men because the symptoms which are considered as “typical” for heart attack in men are “atypical” in nature for women.

For example- In case of angina, men’s observe sudden pain in chest which may radiate to jaw or left arm. But in many women angina develops as burning or hot sensation either in shoulder, jaws, at back or arms and it may actually not give you a picture of any chest discomfort. An expert doctor would consider it as angina when patient observes any sort of discomfort feeling usually above waist during strenuous exercise but most of doctors report it as case of gastro-intestinal disturbances or musculoskeletal disorder. 
Symptoms of heart attack are different with women than men. Women having heart attack observes nausea, vomiting, indigestion, shortness of breath, fatigue or sweating with no actual chest pain.

What to do during Heart Attack?

If you observe chest pain or burning sensation for more than 5-10 minutes or the above mentioned symptoms suddenly, the first action you need to take is call for medical emergency which is 911 for America and 108 for India.  Wait for paramedic care to approach you, while waiting take Aspirin. If they are unable to reach you or take long time, ask friends or neighbours to drive you to hospital. Whatever you do, be quick because every minute is important.

Treatment of Heart Attack

After admitting to hospital, doctors will diagnose heart attack by recording Electrocardiogram (ECG) or through Blood test. ECG helps in recognising the portion of heart which is damaged. Cardiac enzymes like Creatinine Phosphokinase (CPK) and Troponin are released into blood by dying heart muscles. The level of these enzymes increases after the onset of heart attack and blood test is performed regularly in 24 hrs. time period to check severity of heart attack.

The blockage in the coronary artery should be treated within 8 hours’ time period after the onset of heart attack. This can be done through thrombolytic therapy or angioplasty with stenting.

Thrombolytic drugs include Streptokinase, Urokinase, and Anistreplase which helps in bursting off the clot blood. This therapy should be started within 3 hours after the onset of heart attack. Around 50% of occluded arteries can be opened through this treatment but thrombolytic agent leads to bleeding. So, it should be avoided by patient who has high risk of bleeding.

Angioplasty with stenting is the best choice for opening of arteries as up to 80% of arteries can be opened via this method. But it required well equipped hospital and expert physician to perform angioplasty. The prime focus should be to open up the artery as soon as possible, no matter whichever treatment you apply.

Prevention of heart attack

Heart attack and high blood pressure are strongly connected. Governments invest huge amount of money in research and development of new medicaments which can help to fight against such deadly disease. But why don’t we try to rule out root of such disorder. Various factors like smoking, drinking, less activity are responsible for high BP. Improvements in any factor can lower your medicament need by 50%. Therefore yours and countries economic status can be improved by bringing some of the lifestyle changes.

These are the following things you can do if you are at risk or had heart attack-

  • Stay aware– this applies to those patients who are at risk of  having heart attack, If you are up with any of the cause for  hypertension, you must be aware of its consequences. Secondly, changes in body normal function can be recognised by regular medical check-up.
  • Set a treatment goal– In case of HBP, there is no such level of healthy HBP. Your aim should be bring BP below 120/90mmHg. Similarly with other disease like diabetes, discuss with doctor about the safe range and plan treatment according to targeted value.
  • Life style modification– This is the best route for curing any sort of disease. Less or no drinking, quitting smoking, daily exercise, proper sleep, avoiding stress and  eating healthy food rich in fruits , cereals, vegetables etc. are some of the lifestyle modification required to have or gain proper health.
  • Medicines– Lifestyle modification may take months to show its effect.  In severe cases, prescription medicines help in producing quick action. Doctors may prescribe you with monthly treatment for HBP or diabetes. For effective action practice some lifestyle changes like exercise, good diet along with regular medicines intake.

Your will power decides your fortune. It’s never too late to start, but what matters is right action. Don’t neglect the signs of heart attack. Go for immediate medical care and go for all practices that help you in improving your quality of life.