When you have a heart attack or undergo any procedure related to the heart, like open-heart surgery, it takes time for your body to heal. Even a minor procedure, like the insertion of a stent, requires some time to heal. Depending on the severity of the heart attack or any complications incurred during a procedure, the healing time can increase.
Whatever the case may be, it is important to understand how your heart is healing. However, to fully comprehend how the heart heals, you must first understand what happens during a heart attack and what causes it.
What causes heart attacks?
Heart attacks are caused by a blockage of blood flow in the arteries. This blockage develops due to the build-up of plaque or fat deposits in the arteries or by blood clots blocking the arteries. Essentially, a heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart is interrupted.
What happens during a heart attack?
An artery can be blocked completely or partially when a piece of plaque or fat breaks off and blocks blood flow, or when a blood clot blocks the flow.
Even a partial blockage can lead to a heart attack. When an artery is partially blocked, the heart receives a reduced amount of oxygen, and when it needs to pump quickly, such as during exercise, you feel discomfort in your chest, resulting in angina. When the blood flow stops, damage begins to occur in the region of the heart supplied by the blocked artery.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms experienced by men and women during a heart attack may vary.
For men, they may experience:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain in other parts of the upper body, like the arm, neck, shoulder, etc.
- Breathing difficulty
The symptoms women experience may be:
- Pressure or pain in the chest (center)
- Shoulder and jaw pain
Sometimes, you can suffer a heart attack without noticing any symptoms at all. This is known as a Silent Myocardial Infarction. It is usually diagnosed during a visit to the physician. So, if you are feeling unwell, make sure to visit your doctor. Delaying care can make matters worse.
What happens after a heart attack?
Upon restoring the blood flow through the blocked artery, the heart muscle begins to heal. Healing depends on two main factors. First, the amount of damage that the muscle suffered, and second, the size of the area affected. The healing process usually involves the formation of scar tissue over the damaged part of the heart muscle.
Despite the formation of scar tissue over the damaged area, it is worthwhile to note that the scar tissue is not as strong as the original muscle. In turn, this could result in reduced output from the heart. As a result, it is important to alter your lifestyle after a heart attack, to take some pressure off your heart.
When you experience a heart attack, it is important to call for an ambulance immediately. The longer you wait to call for help, the more damage the heart will suffer. Additionally, it will adversely affect your recovery period, as well as your quality of life.
A successful recovery depends on following all recovery guidelines prescribed by your doctor. It also depends on your ability to identify potential problems. Knowing your risk factors and making the necessary lifestyle changes can help you live a long and healthy life.