In this article, we shall consider yet another silent killer, Heart Attack. Heart Attack is responsible for most sudden deaths. It manifests commonly as; sudden collapse and death during strenuous exercise in a healthy looking man or woman. Nigerians were in shock when Sam Okparaji, who was previously in excellent health, slumped and died on the field during the World Cup qualifying match against Angola at National Stadium Lagos.
Such Repeated in 2002 when a Cameroonian Player died suddenly during the Confederation Cup semifinals in France. When such shocking events occur,several misguided comments follow the story. Heart attack is not a respecter of colour or gender. On September 21, 1998 Americans were shocked when the fastest woman sprinter of all time, Florence Griffith Joyner, previously healthy looking, died suddenly at the age of 38 of heart attack.
What is heart attack?
Think of the heart as a pumping machine that pushes blood through a series of pipes (the blood vessels) in order to provide oxygen to various tissues, including the heart muscle itself. The arteries that supply blood to the heart itself are called coronary arteries. If there is damage or narrowing (atherosclerosis) of the heart arteries over a period of time, it it called coronary artery disease or simply “heart disease”.
On the other hand, if there is sudden blockage of the heart artery, the oxgen supply to completely cut off. The latter which may lead to sudden death is called heart attack. The latter which may lead to sudden death is called heart attack. The latter condition is medically called Myocardiac Infarction.
What Causes Heart Attack
Most heart attacks are caused by a blockage in heart arteries. Usually the blockage is caused by atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits (called plaque) inside the artery. This buildup is like the gunk that builds up in a drain-pipe and slows the flow of water.
Heart attacks can also be caused by a blood clot that gets stuck in a narrow part of an artery to the heart. Clots are more likely to form where atherosclerosis has made an artery narrow. It can also be caused by sudden spasm (contraction) of the coronary artery. The spasm may be brought on by stress, cold or exertion. Also Carbon Monoxide from generator fumes can cause a state of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) to the tissues which can affect the heart muscles leading to heart attack.
How Common is Heart Attack
Millions of people die yearly as a result of heart attack but its sudden onset and poor post-mortem have left most Africans guessing and sometimes concluding ignorantly on the possible cause of the sudden death. Africans negative perception and poor medical facilities also made it practically difficult to have accurate data on the prevalence of heart attack in africa.
However, Statistics from American Heart Association give heart-breaking report on America on heart attack. The report reveals that every 20 seconds, someone in the US has a heart attack. Fortunately, due to tremendous medical advances in the past decades, heart attacks are decreasingly fatal. Nonetheless, heart attack accounts for one third of all deaths in women and it is also the leading cause of death in women over age 50 in America.
This is a mild heart attack characterized by reversible chest pain which can last up to five minutes. It also occurs with feeling of pressure or sense of numbness or heaviness behind the breast bone or across the chest.
It is usually caused by poor circulation and decreased oxygen supply to the heart muscles. It occurs in both men and women but more common in women. It is relieved by rest or by special medication.