Acute Coronary Syndrome and Heart Attack


If you have acute
coronary syndrome, you have one or more
conditions caused by a blockage of blood
flow to your heart muscle. This is a medical
emergency, because you may be having a heart attack,
a condition in which your heart muscle begins to die. Your heart is a
muscular organ that pumps blood
containing the oxygen and nutrients your body needs. The main pumping chamber of your
heart is the left ventricle. When your left
ventricle contracts, it sends oxygen-rich
blood to your body through a large artery
called the aorta. Connected to your aorta
are small arteries called coronary arteries. Blood flows from your aorta,
through the coronary arteries, to supply your heart muscle
with oxygen and nutrients. If you have acute
coronary syndrome, blood flow through
your coronary arteries is severely reduced
or completely blocked. One possible cause of reduced
blood flow is atherosclerosis. In this condition, a
build-up of a fatty substance called plaque can narrow
your coronary arteries. If this plaque
ruptures, a blood clot can form and block the artery. A blood clot is the
most common cause of coronary artery blockage. Other, less common causes
of reduced blood flow include coronary artery
spasm or dissection. In a coronary artery
spasm, triggers such as drugs, smoking, cold
weather, and extreme stress or emotions can cause a
temporary and sudden tightening of a coronary artery. During a coronary
artery dissection, the inside wall of one
of your coronary arteries separates, which can
block blood flow. Regardless of the
cause, a blockage in either coronary
artery prevents the oxygen and
nutrients in your blood from reaching the part of your
heart supplied by the artery. As a result, heart muscle
in that area starts to die. Death of part of
your heart muscle is called a heart attack. It’s also known as a
myocardial infarction or MI. A blocked coronary
artery may also cause you to feel sudden
pain, discomfort, tightening, or a burning sensation in
your chest called angina. This pain may extend to your
upper abdomen, shoulders, arms, neck, and lower jaw. If you have angina
when you’re at rest, or frequent angina
that prevents even moderate physical activity,
you have unstable angina, which is the main symptom
of acute coronary syndrome. Other symptoms of
acute coronary syndrome include shortness of
breath, dizziness, nausea, and sweating. If you’ve had a
heart attack or have other types of acute
coronary syndrome, your doctor may
prescribe oxygen therapy to get more oxygen
into your blood. You may take aspirin or other
prescription blood-thinner drugs to prevent blood clots. Thrombolytics also known
as clot-buster drugs, may be used to break up
any existing blood clots. Drugs such as
nitroglycerin and morphine will relax your
coronary arteries and relieve the pain of angina. You may also receive drugs
called beta blockers that slow down your heart and
reduce its need for oxygen. Your doctor may also recommend
immediate surgical procedures, such as coronary angioplasty, in
which a balloon-tipped catheter inflates inside your blocked
coronary artery to open it. may leave behind a mesh-like
device called a stent After inflating, the balloon catheter
may leave behind a mesh-like device called a stent
to hold your artery open. Or you may have a coronary
artery bypass graft, or CABG. CABG is a surgical
procedure in which the blocked areas of the coronary arteries are bypassed with veins or
artificial graft material. Seek treatment
immediately if you have the symptoms of
acute coronary syndrome.

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