How Can Heart Disease Lead to a Heart Attack?
Heart disease and heart attack are terms that are often confused. A person with heart disease does not have to have experienced a heart attack. While the two conditions are different, they are closely related. In order to better understand this relationship, it is important to understand what the terms mean, and how heart disease can lead to a heart attack.
There are several types of heart disease. Of these, coronary artery disease is the most common. Coronary disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries of the heart. This buildup of plaque can restrict the flow of blood, ultimately damaging the heart. Plaque buildup occurs over time. It is a result of many different factors, including:
- Family History
- Lack of Exercise
Other types of heart disease may damage and/or weaken the heart. Viruses and infections can harm the heart muscle. A damaged heart may not be able to pump effectively, thus limiting the flow of blood into and out of the heart. If the valves of the heart are not working properly, the condition may limit adequate blood flow. Blood may also flow the wrong way or leak into the heart. If a person suffers from arrhythmia, the heart may beat too quickly, too slowly, or the heart may beat irregularly, again affecting the heart’s natural blood flow.
A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked. If the blood flow is blocked to one section of the heart, that section will begin to die. If left untreated, the damage can cause other parts of the heart to fail, potentially resulting in death. Heart attacks occurs when the coronary arteries, leading blood supply to the heart muscle, stop functioning properly or become blocked, causing the heart muscle to suddenly stop. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, parts of the heart muscle begin to die. Without quick treatment, a heart attack can lead to damaged heart muscle or even death.
The most common reason that people suffer a heart attack is due to blockages that are caused by coronary artery disease. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the flow of blood to the heart is restricted, leading to a burst vessel and/or the formation of a blood clot. If an area of plaque ruptures (breaks open) inside of an artery, a blood clot can form on the plaque's surface. Should the clot become large enough; it can block blood flow through a coronary artery. If a clot is significantly large, it can completely block an artery and cut off the flow of blood to an entire section of the heart. If the blockage isn't treated quickly, the portion of heart muscle fed by the artery begins to die. Healthy heart tissue is replaced with scar tissue. This heart damage may not be obvious, or it may cause severe or long-lasting problems.
While coronary artery disease is the cause of most heart attacks, other types of heart disease can result in a heart attack. These conditions are also capable of restricting the heart’s natural blood flow, resulting in damage to the heart.
Long Term Effects –Heart Disease, Heart Attack, and You
Not everyone recognizes when they are suffering from heart disease or when they are experiencing a heart attack; symptoms may even be ignored. However, in any one of these situations, damage to the heart does occur. Signs of a heart conditions are not always obvious so it is important to understand how heart disease and heart attack are related and how they can affect you.
Fortunately, there are ways that the damage can be treated once you recognize that you have a heart problem. A combination of medicine, exercise, and diet are some of the best way to repair or prevent additional damage to the heart. Awareness and treatment may effectively reduce your risk of heart disease leading to a heart attack.