While the heart attack survival rate in the world has improved because of better quality healthcare, this does not mean that the disease no longer poses a significant threat. Here is everything you need to know about what heart attacks are, what causes them, and how you can prevent them from happening.
Heart Attack Survival Rate | What You Need to Know About Heart Attacks
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack, otherwise known as a myocardial infarction, happens when a blockage in one or more heart arteries prevents blood from flowing into the organ. This lack of blood flow is hazardous because it quickly causes the heart muscle to die.
In general, there are 2 Classifications of Heart Attack:
- Type I Heart Attack happens when plaque on the artery’s inner wall ruptures. It then releases cholesterol and other substances into the bloodstream, forming a blood clot that blocks the artery.
- Type II Heart Attack – This heart attack is not necessarily due to the complete blockage of an artery but rather when the heart does not get the oxygen-rich blood it needs.
Heart Attack Causes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of heart attacks is coronary artery disease (CAD). It happens when plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the organ. This build-up of plaque is generally known as atherosclerosis.
Severe spasms or sudden contractions of a coronary artery can also block blood flow to the heart. Other common causes of heart attacks also include:
- Torn blood vessels
- Drug misuse
- Lack of oxygen in the blood
The CDC also estimates that around 50 percent of all adults have at least one of three major risk factors that increase a person’s chances of getting some other kind of heart disease. These significant risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking.
Other common risk factors also include:
- Diabetes – The American Heart Association estimates that adults who have diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than people who do not have it.
- Depression – The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says that adults with depression or symptoms of it are 64 percent times more likely to develop CAD.
- Obesity – Being obese or overweight is also linked to numerous cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. It is often due to having a poor diet, lack of physical exercise, and excessive alcohol drinking.
Heart Attack Symptoms
An increase in the awareness of the symptoms of a heart attack has also led to an improved heart attack survival rate globally. These symptoms generally include:
- Chest pains
- Shortness of breath or troubled breathing
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Upper body pain, mainly in the arms, shoulders, or neck
Regardless of one’s gender, a person may experience a mix of any of the above-listed symptoms. In addition, however, there are sex-specific differences in the biology, presentation, and outcomes of heart attacks.
For example, a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that women are more likely to experience symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pains.
The study further shows that men are more likely to have heart attacks caused by plaque ruptures. On the other hand, women are more likely to have heart attacks caused by non-obstructive CAD.
Furthermore, high estrogen levels also reduce the risk of a heart attack. Because of this, the risk of women having a heart attack increases after menopause.
A recent study also shows that after experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, women tend to wait longer before contacting emergency services than men. It results in more women experiencing more severe effects than men.
Heart Attack Survival Rate by Age
A broader, age-specific “Heart Attack Survival Rate” study has yet to be published. However, most studies focus on the mortality rate of cardiovascular diseases in general.
According to the CDC, 30.3 million adults in the US alone were diagnosed with heart disease in 2018. Every year, around 647,000 of these individuals succumb to the condition, making it the leading cause of death in the country.
An estimated 1 out of every four deaths in the US is due to heart disease. Every 40 seconds, an American experiences a heart attack, which amounts to about 805,000 Americans every year.
Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimates that 12 percent of people who have a heart attack die from it.
The American Heart Association also says that 19 percent of men and 26 percent of women who have a heart attack will die within a year. In addition, within the next five years after a heart attack, almost 50 percent of women succumb to the effects of the condition, compared to only 36 percent of men.
Heart Attack Treatments
Of course, the best treatment for a heart attack is still prevention. If it’s too late for this, however, doctors have a variety of ways to diagnose and treat heart attacks.
Often, physicians order a cardiac catheterization. Using a flexible tube will involve a probe that the doctor will insert into the blood vessels. It will allow the doctor to see where plaque may have built up, allowing them to decide on the proper course of action.
Treatments that follow will depend on the gravity of the condition. It can either be surgical or non-surgical.
Some standard procedures include:
- Angioplasty – This procedure opens the blocked artery using a balloon. Nowadays, however, angioplasties are often accompanied by other treatments.
- Stent – A stent is essentially a wire mesh inserted by surgeons into the artery that keeps it open after angioplasty.
- Heart bypass surgery – A heart bypass surgery involves rerouting blood around a blockage.
- Heart valve surgery – Otherwise known as a valve repair or replacement surgery, the procedure involves repairing or replacing leaky valves to help the heart pump.
- Pacemaker – Pacemakers are devices implanted underneath the skin that helps the heart maintain a normal rhythm.
- Heart transplant – In worst-case scenarios where permanent tissue death to most of the heart has already happened, a heart transplant is often the go-to treatment.
Heart Attack Prevention
As was mentioned earlier, prevention is always better than cure. Therefore, preventing heart attacks or reducing their risk entails a healthier lifestyle.
Heart attack prevention includes increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing blood pressure and blood sugar, following a healthy diet, and avoiding vices like smoking and drinking excessively.
When in doubt, you can always work with your doctor to find holes in your lifestyle that you can improve on to lower your risk of having a heart attack.
Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and what to do after is crucial to increasing a person’s heart attack survival rate. Learn all these with this video courtesy of St. John Ambulance:
A firm grasp of the causes, symptoms, and treatments of heart attacks significantly increases a person’s heart attack survival rate. Please read our guide above, so you will know what to do if you or someone around you ever experiences this potentially fatal condition.