A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when there is a sudden complete blockage of an artery that supplies blood to an area of your heart. Our hearts require a healthy flow of blood to remain healthy, so when this supply is reduced or stops it can cause damage or death to part of the heart muscle.
Angina is pain or discomfort that happens when your heart can’t get enough blood or oxygen. Angina is not a heart attack, however it means you are at an increased risk of suffering from a heart attack. Angina can cause pain and/or discomfort that may feel tight, gripping or squeezing, which can be felt in the chest, back, neck, jaw, shoulders, arms and hands. These symptoms are similar for a heart attack, however you may also experience:
- Cold sweats
- Shortness of breath
Women are less likely to experience chest pain symptoms when they have a heart attack so it is important to be alert for other signs. If in doubt, always seek medical attention as the longer your heart is deprived of blood the higher the risk of permanent damage.
Angina and heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is a build up of plaque in the coronary arteries. The build up causes the arteries to narrow, which reduces the amount of blood flow to the heart. Some people may not know that they have coronary artery disease until they have a heart attack.
If you are suffering from coronary artery disease then it is important to explore your options to improve your heart health and to help reduce your risk of a heart attack and control symptoms such as angina. Some of these options include:
- Quit smoking
- Manage blood cholesterol levels so that they stay within a healthy level
- Seek treatment if you suffer from high blood pressure
- Maintain a regular exercise routine
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet
If you suffer from coronary artery disease or are worried about your heart health then speak to your friendly GP or visit heartfoundation.org.au for more information.