In this post, I want to briefly cover some of the myths and misunderstandings surrounding heart attacks (there are plenty more).
1. They are NOT the same thing. A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating and can have many causes (ultimately we will all die from a cardiac arrest). A heart attack is caused by a blockage of one of the main arteries which feeds blood to the heart muscle (the heart needs its own blood supply to keep pumping).
2. All heart attacks are serious and are generally classed as either STEMI (an emergency event, needing urgent treatment) or NSTEMI (acute, partial blockage, requiring treatment). If left untreated a STEMI can very quickly result in cardiac arrest and/or major damage to the heart muscle. A NSTEMI can still result in damage to the heart muscle and could lead to a cardiac arrest.
3. Symptoms of a heart attack vary by person (not like the classic TV scene). Some people get indigestion, feel sick, sweat, back pain, left arm pain, right arm pain, no pain.
4. Anyone, regardless of their age, weight or level of fitness can have a heart attack.
5. Many things can cause a heart attack: diet, lifestyle, genetics, stress, “just one of those things”.
6. See points 4 & 5. Women are as just as likely to have a heart attack as men (but the symptoms often present differently). Many fit and healthy individuals (including vegetarians, those of a perfect weight, non smokers, non drinkers, regular exercisers, etc.) have heart attacks. An unhealthy or stressful lifestyle WILL increase the risk, but does not mean “it’s a certainty”.
7. Medical treatment can “fix” the immediate issue (e.g., opening blocked arteries with stents or bypassing affected arteries completely), but it does not “fix” the underlying problem. Life-long medication and lifestyle changes can only help to reduce the risks of further blockages. Nothing “fixes” it completely.
8. This is not a complete list …My heart attack was a STEMI event.
Many thanks to Mandy RS Art & Illustration for the graphic which shows a normal ECG reading, my heart attack, followed by the ECG reading for a STEMI. Feel free to share this post and the unmodified graphic. It can also be downloaded as apart of a free collection that can be shared across social media https://tonyrichenssmith.com/books/heart-awareness-memes/
The British Heart Foundation also has fantastic resources available for anyone wanting further information. https://www.bhf.org.uk/
Knowledge is power, and education can save lives. #heartawareness