April 18th, 2012
There are a few heart-related words (heart as in the vital organ, not emotional feelings) that often get confused. The first pair is “heart attack” and “heart failure” which are different yet somewhat similar. A heart attack means the heart suddenly stops working, and the person usually dies in a short period of time. However, sometimes people use the term “heart attack” to describe the symptom that involves rapid onset of shortness of breath on exertion. Usually, this is heart failure. The heart is still beating, but it is not working enough for the body to function well.
A heart attack means the heart suddenly stops working, and the person usually dies in a short period of time. However, sometimes people use the term “heart attack” to describe the symptom that involves rapid onset of shortness of breath on exertion. Usually, this is heart failure. The heart is still beating, but it is not working enough for the body to function well.
Heart failure is sometimes caused by acute myocardial infarction, commonly known as heart attack. It happens when the coronary artery, which supplies blood to the heart muscles, is clogged and there is insufficient blood flow, depriving the heart muscles of oxygen and nutrients. If the dead area of the heart muscles spreads, the heart cannot function well enough, causing heart failure.
The most important chamber of the heart is the left ventricle, which is the largest and has strong cone-shaped muscles. Its job is to receive fresh blood from the lungs via the left atrium and pump this blood to other parts of the body like a water pump.
If a large part of the heart muscles are damaged or dead, caused by clogged arteries, the heart becomes weaker and cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s demand. This in turn causes excess water in both lungs, a pulmonary edema or congestive heart failure. In congestive heart failure, the heart cannot withdraw blood from the lungs sufficiently. The kidneys and the brain can also go into shock because of insufficient blood supply.
A heart attack can cause heart failure and it is a common reason for death in patients with coronary artery disease. If heart failure is left untreated, the patient may die from flooding water in the lungs. Sometimes a heart attack causes the heart to stop beating suddenly without causing heart failure. If the heart stops beating, the person risks losing their life. This is because after a heart attack, the artery is clogged, causing a small amount of heart muscles to die. However, even a small area of dead muscle can disrupt the heart’s electricity, resulting in an irregular heartbeat, or the lack of heartbeat altogether (without causing heart failure).
The latter reason is the main cause of fatality, and many patients don’t even make it to hospital. Some die in their sleep, while some lose their lives during strenuous activity. Some even die because of anger or other stressful negative emotions.
In conclusion, heart attack can cause heart failure, and heart failure can also lead to a heart attack if left untreated.
It is very important to determine what heart condition you have because different conditions come with different treatments. Another important thing is to accept it. There’s no use being in denial when it comes to your own health. I have so many patients who pray everyday for their heart to stop beating while they sleep since they think that would be the most comfortable way to die. Even though I have told them that nobody really knows if those who die during sleep suffer anything. Logically they should experience chest discomfort and/or shortness of breath.
Prof Nithi Mahanonda is consultant cardiologist and interventionist, Perfect Heart Institute.
Reference : http://www.bangkokpost.com
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