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Heart attack (myocardial infarction)


The disruption of flow of oxygenated blood to heart muscle can cause a heart attack. Flow can be disrupted by (i) narrowing of the coronary arteries (due to atherosclerosis, embolus or thrombus) (ii) arrhythmia (inadequate pumping capacity of the heart to meet its own requirements) (iii) aneurysm (rupturing of a blood vessel, such that normal blood flow is disrupted). Cell death begins to occur within minutes, if the flow of oxygenated blood is not returned to the heart. Preceding a heart attack, many people experience angina pectoris, a type of chest pain that is brought on by physical exertion and stress.

Risk factors: family history of heart disease, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, stress (type A personality), sedentary lifestyle, high levels of homocysteine, high cholesterol (especially LDL and triglycerides), improper diet, excessive consumption of alcohol and an insufficient supply of antioxidants.

Symptoms: deep chest pain (squeezing feeling), discomfort in the jaw, left arm or neck, shortness of breath, profuse sweating, nausea, light-headedness and vomiting. Women are more likely to experience atypical symptoms such as pain between the shoulder blades, rather than the typical crushing type pain.

Who to consult: Cardiologist, counselling (quit smoking), dietician, endocrinologist, exercise physiologist, GP, herbalist, homoeopath, meditation practitioner, naturopath, physical therapist, physiotherapist, psychologist, yoga practitioner.