A heart attack is the death of a heart muscle segment, caused by a blood flow loss. The blood is usually cut off when a blood clot blocks an artery that feeds the heart muscle.
If some of the heart muscle dies, a person experiences chest pain and electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue.
The Nccmed Knowledge Center should provide details about how and why heart attacks take place, how they are handled and how they can be avoided.
Fast facts on heart attacks:
- During a heart attack, the heart muscle loses blood supply and is damaged.
- Chest discomfort and pain are common symptoms.
- The risk of a heart attack increases when a man is over 45 and a woman is over 55.
- Smoking and obesity are big factors, particularly in the at-risk age range.
There are clear symptoms of a heart attack which require immediate health care.
A sensation of pressure, tightness, discomfort, squeezing, or discomfort that extends in the chest or arms to the neck, jaw, or back can be a sign that a person is having a heart attack.
Many potential signs and symptoms of a heart attack arising are as follows:
- crushing chest pain
- shortness of breath called dyspnea
- face seeming gray in color
- a feeling of terror that life is ending
- feeling awful, generally
- feeling clammy and sweaty
- shortness of breath
Changing position does not allay a heart attack’s discomfort. The pain that a person experiences is generally constant although sometimes it can come and go.
Because heart attacks can be fatal, it is important to consider the warning signs when an attack occurs.
While the above symptoms are all related to heart attacks, the American Heart Association (AHA) has identified four warning signs as vital signs of an attack. Including:
- discomfort, pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the chest that lasts several minutes or resolves then returns
- pain or discomfort in the arms, neck, back, stomach, or jaw
- sudden shortness of breath
Other signs can include a cold sweat, a sick or nauseous feeling, or being lightheaded.
When a person has these symptoms, the emergency services should be called immediately.
There are two types of complications which can occur after a heart attack. The first takes place pretty straight away, and the second happens later.
- Arrhythmias: the heart beats irregularly, either too fast or too slowly.
- Cardiogenic shock: a person’s blood pressure drops suddenly and the heart cannot supply enough blood for the body to work adequately.
- Hypoxemia: levels of oxygen in the blood become too low.
- Pulmonary edema: fluid accumulates in and around the lungs.
- DVT or deep vein thrombosis: the deep veins of the legs and pelvis develop blood clots that either block or interrupt the flow of blood in the vein.
- Myocardial rupture: the heart attack damages the wall of the heart, meaning an increased risk of a heart wall rupture.
- Ventricular aneurysm: a heart chamber, known as a ventricle, forms a bulge.
Complications that can occur later
- Aneurysm: scar tissue builds up on the damaged heart wall, leading to blood clots, low blood pressure, and abnormal heart rhythms.
- Angina: not enough oxygen reaches the heart, causing chest pain.
- Congestive heart failure: the heart can only beat very weakly, leaving a person feeling exhausted and breathless.
- Edema: fluid accumulates in the ankles and legs, causing them to swell.
- Loss of erectile function: erectile dysfunction is generally caused by a vascular problem. However, it can also be the result of depression.
- Loss of libido: a loss of sexual drive can happen, especially in the case of men.
- Pericarditis: the lining of the heart becomes inflamed, causing serious chest pain.
It is important that a doctor monitors a person for several months after they have had a heart attack to check for any of these complications that may occur.
The quicker someone is treated when a heart attack happens the greater the likelihood of success. Most heart attacks can be treated successfully these days.
It is, however, important to note that a person’s survival is largely dependent on how quickly they enter the hospital.
When a person has a history of heart problems they should discuss medical options with a doctor.
Treatments during a heart attack
Sometimes, a person who is having a heart attack will stop breathing. In this case, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, should be started immediately. This process involves:
- manual chest compressions
- a defibrillator
Treatments following a heart attack
Most patients with a heart attack may require many kinds of medicine or treatment. These measures are aimed at avoiding future heart attacks. Can also include:
- aspirin and other antiplatelets
- beta blockers
- ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors
- CABG or coronary artery bypass graft
A heart attack is a medical emergency where blood flow to the heart is blocked, often as a result of a blood clot.
Many terms used for a heart attack include myocardial infarction, heart attack, and cardiac thrombosis. An infarction occurs when an area occurs cut off from the blood supply and the tissue in that area dies.
In a cardiac arrest a heart attack is often confused . Although all are medical emergencies, the blockage of an artery leading to the heart is a heart attack, and a cardiac arrest involves the heart stopping blood flowing through the body. Cardiac arrest may result from a heart attack.
Following a balanced lifestyle is the fastest way of avoiding heart attack. Tools for a balanced life include:
- not smoking
- eating a balanced, healthful diet
- getting plenty of exercise
- getting plenty of good quality sleep
- keeping diabetes under control
- keeping alcohol intake down
- maintaining blood cholesterol at optimum levels
- keeping blood pressure at a safe level
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- avoiding stress where possible
- learning how to manage stress
It may be helpful for people to learn more about the warning signs of a heart attack, as well.
Whether they think they may have a heart attack, any doctor, nurse, or health care provider should rush them straight to the hospital. Many checks can be performed while there including:
- ECG or electrocardiograph
- cardiac enzyme tests
- chest X-ray
The recovery from a heart attack can be a progressive process. It depends on the severity of the heart attack and other factors, including the age of the person.
A person’s recovery may involve:
- Resuming physical activity: it is vital that a recovering heart attack patient stays active. However, a specialist should design any exercise program for them.
- Returning to work: the appropriate time for someone to go back to work depends on various factors, including the severity of the heart attack and the type of job they do. It is vital not to rush back to work.
- A period of depression: many people who have had a heart attack experience depression not long afterward. Those who feel depressed or anxious should tell their doctors.
- Driving again: experts advise that a person refrains from driving for at least 4 weeks after a heart attack.
- Erectile dysfunction: approximately one-third of men have problems getting or sustaining an erection after a heart attack.
It is important that men with erectile dysfunction talk with their physicians, because in most cases, medication will restore function.
Experts say that sexual activity does not raise a person’s risk of having another heart attack.
The following factors are associated with increased risk of a heart attack:
- Age: Heart attacks are more likely when a man is over 45, and when a woman is over 55.
- Angina: This causes chest pain due to lack of oxygen or blood supply to the heart.
- High cholesterol levels: These can increase the chance of blood clots in the arteries.
- Diabetes: This can increase heart attack risk.
- Diet: For example, consuming large quantities of saturated fats can increase the likelihood of a heart attack.
- Genetics: A person can inherit a higher risk of heart attack.
- Heart surgery: This can lead to a heart attack later on.
- Hypertension: High blood pressure can put unnecessary strain on the heart.
- Obesity: Being significantly overweight can put pressure on the heart.
- Previous heart attack.
- Smoking: Smokers are at much higher risk than non-smokers.
- HIV: People who are HIV-positive have a 50 percent higher risk.
- Work stress: Those who are shift workers or have stressful jobs can face a higher heart attack risk.
Physical inactivity is a heart attack risk factor and the more involved people are, the lower their risk of a heart attack.
A heart attack is often caused by a mixture of causes, rather than a single one, when it happens.
Symptoms, causes, and treatment of transient ischemic attack (TIA)
A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a ministroke, happens when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted for a short period of time.
Although the diminished blood flow normally only lasts 5 minutes, a TIA is still a medical emergency. It could be a precursor to a massive stroke.
Because the symptoms of a TIA resolve fast, many people do not seek medical care. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of people who don’t get treatment for a TIA will have a severe stroke within a year.
According to statistics, 20% of persons who have a TIA will have a stroke within three months, and half of these will happen within two days of the TIA.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of a TIA and seeking care as soon as possible can help you avoid a more serious and perhaps life-threatening incident.
In this article, you’ll learn more about what a TIA entails and what to do if one arises.
What is a TIA?
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) has symptoms that are similar to those of a stroke, but it causes only a few minutes. The decreased blood flow normally only lasts a few seconds, but the symptoms can last for several minutes. They can last for a few hours on rare occasions.
TIAs occur when a blood clot stops blood flow to the brain cells for a brief period of time, preventing oxygen from reaching the cells. The symptoms usually go away when the clot breaks up or moves on. These events do not stay long enough to cause brain cells permanently.
People should not dismiss a TIA since it could be an indication of a big stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.
According to statistics, TIAs afflict about 2% of the population in the United States.
When the supply of oxygen to the brain is interrupted, a TIA ensues. This could be as a result of:
- atherosclerosis, in which fatty deposits cause the arteries to become harder, thicker, narrower, and less flexible
- blood clots due to heart disease, cardiovascular disease, or an irregular heart rhythm
- blood clots due to a blood condition, such as sickle cell disease
- an embolism or blood clot that has traveled from elsewhere in the body
- an air bubble in the bloodstream
The symptoms of a TIA are determined by which area of the brain isn’t getting enough blood.
The acronym FAST (facial, arms, speech, time) might help people recall the symptoms to look for, just as it can with a severe stroke:
- F = face: The eye or mouth may droop on one side, and the person may be unable to smile properly.
- A = arms: Arm weakness or numbness might make it hard to raise one or both arms or keep them raised.
- S = speech: The person’s speech may be slurred and garbled.
- T = time: Someone should call the emergency services at once if a person has one or more of these symptoms.
The person may also have:
- numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
- sudden confusion
- difficulty understanding what others are talking about
- vision problems
- problems with coordination
- difficulty walking
- a very bad headache
- a loss of consciousness, in some cases
TIA symptoms are only present for a short time. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, and they normally go away after 24 hours.
However, if anyone experiences symptoms that could signal a TIA, they should seek medical care right away because a massive stroke could result.
The same variables that cause temporary blood flow insufficiency in a TIA can cause a stroke, which can result in irreversible brain damage owing to a longer-lasting blood flow deficit.
Conditions with symptoms that are similar
A TIA’s symptoms can be similar to those of other diseases, such as:
- multiple sclerosis
- a hemorrhagic stroke or ischemic stroke
- fainting due to low blood pressure
Even if the symptoms of the TIA have subsided, getting an accurate diagnosis can assist a person get the proper treatment to help minimise the risk of a future stroke.
- having a family history of stroke or TIA
- being 55 years or above
- being assigned male at birth
- being Black or Hispanic, compared with being non-Hispanic white
- having high blood pressure
- having cardiovascular disease
- smoking tobacco
- having diabetes
- getting low levels of exercise
- having high cholesterol levels
- eating a diet that is high in unhealthy fats and salt
- having high homocysteine levels
- having overweight or obesity
- having a type of heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation
Treatment options will be determined by the cause of the TIA. The parts that follow will go over some of the possibilities.
A doctor may recommend medicine to reduce the risk of a second blood clot and catastrophic stroke.
The treatment options will vary depending on the cause of the TIA, however they usually include:
- anti-platelet drugs to prevent clotting, such as include aspirin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), and clopidogrel (Plavix)
- anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin) and heparin, which also help prevent clotting
- medications to manage high blood pressure, or hypertension
- drugs to help manage cholesterol levels
- medications to manage heart disease and regulate irregular heart rhythms
All of these medications can cause side effects and may interact with other medications.
As a result, people should tell their doctor about any other prescriptions they’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and herbal therapies.
If a person has negative side effects while taking a medication, they should consult a doctor. It’s possible that another option exists.
A doctor may propose surgery to remove a blockage or a portion of a damaged artery in some instances.
Preventive actions and lifestyle changes
A risk of lifestyle changes can help minimise your chances of having a TIA or stroke. These are some of them:
- avoiding or quitting smoking
- avoiding exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke
- eating a nutritious and varied diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- managing one’s intake of salt and unhealthy fats
- getting regular exercise
- avoiding the use of recreational drugs
- managing body weight, if appropriate
- following any treatment plan for heart disease, diabetes, or other conditions
Before making any major lifestyle changes, such as beginning a new workout plan, it is best to consult with a healthcare practitioner to determine the best course of action.
Anyone who has signs or symptoms of a TIA should seek medical help right away to figure out why it happened and how to avoid a recurrence or a more serious occurrence.
Symptoms can fade fast, and by the time the person sees a doctor, they may be gone. A witness who was present at the time, on the other hand, may be able to assist the individual in explaining the situation to the doctor.
The doctor will likely:
- ask what happened and ask about any ongoing symptoms
- ask how long the symptoms lasted for and how they affected the person
- consider the individual’s personal and family medical history
- carry out a neurological examination, which may include memory and coordination tests
If the doctor suspects the patient suffered a TIA, he or she may be referred to a neurologist for further evaluation.
The following are some examples of possible tests:
- blood tests to check blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and clotting ability
- an electrocardiogram to measure the electrical activity and rhythms of the heart
- an echocardiogram to check the pumping action of the heart
- a chest X-ray to help rule out other conditions
- a CT scan to reveal any signs of an aneurysm, bleeding, or changes to blood vessels in the brain
- an MRI scan to help identify damage to the brain
The doctor may also request that the patient wear a Holter monitor for a few days or weeks in order to track their heart rhythms over time.
The symptoms of a TIA can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. However, it is critical to seek medical help because a TIA can be a symptom of a massive stroke.
A TIA is marked by weakness and numbness on one side of the body, facial drooping on one side, and difficulty speaking. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 right away.
Following a TIA, lifestyle changes and the use of medicine to lower the risk of future blood clots are two choices for treatment.
What is an echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound image of the heart. It can help doctors diagnose a range of heart problems.
Doctors use echocardiograms to help them diagnose heart problems, such as damaged cardiac tissue, chamber enlargement, stiffening of the heart muscle, blood clots in the heart, fluid around the heart, and damaged or poorly functioning heart valves.
In this article, we explain how doctors use echocardiograms, what to expect during the test, and how to interpret the results.
What is it?
Ultrasound waves are used in echocardiography to create a picture of the heart, which is referred to as an echocardiogram (echo).
It is a minimally invasive medical technique that emits no radiation and has few negative effects.
A doctor can see the following things during an echocardiogram:
- any blood clots in the heart
- areas of damaged or weak cardiac muscle tissue
- the size and thickness of the chambers
- how the valves of the heart are functioning
- problems affecting the pericardium, which is the fluid-filled sac around the heart
- causes of a stroke
- the direction of blood flow through the heart
What is the procedure?
Echocardiograms are simple, noninvasive procedures that require little preparation.
We’ll go over what to expect before, during, and after an echocardiography in the sections below.
The person does not need to prepare if the echocardiogram is taken from the outside of the body by a healthcare expert.
A doctor will advise people who are getting a transesophageal echocardiography to avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 6 hours before the procedure. Following the local anesthetic wears off, people can resume eating and drinking 1–2 hours after the echocardiography.
During the test
The transthoracic (external) echocardiography will be performed by a sonographer. Sonographers are medical practitioners who specialize in producing images and movies for diagnostic purposes utilizing ultrasound instruments.
The person getting the echocardiography will take off their clothes from the waist up throughout the procedure. If they want to be covered during the exam, they can wear a hospital gown.
The sonographer will then urge the patient to lie on their back or left side on a table. They may inject a saline solution or dye into the veins of the patient to make the heart seem more distinct on an echocardiogram.
The type of echocardiography determines the procedure. Consider the following example:
The sonographer will apply a gel to the chest if a doctor has ordered a transthoracic echocardiogram. After that, the sonographer will move the transducer across the chest to obtain various images of the heart.
The sonographer may ask someone to change positions or take or hold a deep breath throughout the examination. To gain a better view of the heart, they could press the transducer into the chest.
If a clinician wants more detailed or sharper images of the heart than a transthoracic echocardiogram can provide, they may perform a transesophageal echocardiogram.
The person may be given a small sedative to help relax the muscles in their throat and a topical anesthetic to block the gag reflex during a transesophageal echocardiogram.
A doctor will guide a small transducer on the end of a long tube down the throat and esophagus until it reaches the back of the heart once the sedative and local anesthetic have taken effect.
As the doctor moves the transducer around the esophagus, the sonographer will record images of the heart. After swallowing the probe, the user should not feel the transducer or tube in their esophagus.
After the test
After a transthoracic echocardiography, most people can resume their normal activities.
After a transesophageal echocardiography, people may be required to stay at the hospital or healthcare center for a few hours. They may have a sore throat at first, but it should go away within a day or two.
If you were given a sedative prior to the exam, you should not drive for many hours afterward.
What does it diagnose?
Echocardiograms allow doctors to see the size, structure, and activity of different parts of the heart.
This allows them to identify heart abnormalities, assess the need for additional tests, decide their next actions, and monitor changes and improvements.
Doctors may use this approach to examine for signs or symptoms that could indicate the following:
- Heart attack: The test can look for anomalies in the heart muscle tissue’s blood supply, as well as wall irregularities and blood flow, all of which can signal a heart attack.
- Blood clots (thrombus) or tumors: In a study published in 2021, echo was proven to be a viable alternative to cardiac magnetic resonance in detecting thrombosis. According to a 2020 study, it is also an important noninvasive method for detecting heart masses such as malignancies.
- Atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease (CAD): While an echo cannot detect artery blockages, narrowing and obstructed arteries can impair the heart’s ability to pump blood and disrupt the heart’s wall motion. This is more noticeable during times of stress, making a stress echo a useful diagnostic tool.
- Aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection: An echo can detect a wide, weaker aorta, as well as unruptured aneurysms and their size, as well as fibrosis and thrombus formation in the vessel.
- Cardiomyopathy: The test can determine the size and function of the heart and link it to factors such as wall thickness, weak heart muscle, leaky heart valves, heart failure, and high blood pressure.
- Pulmonary hypertension: The test can measure heart pressure, which can indicate the presence of pulmonary hypertension and aid doctors in determining the following steps in the diagnosis.
- Congenital heart disease: In newborns and early children, the test can detect congenital cardiac problems such as septal defects and holes.
- Heart valve disease: The test checks for leakage, constriction, infection, and blockage in heart valves, as well as irregular cardiac blood flow.
- Problems with the pericardium: The test can determine whether the pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart) is inflamed (pericarditis) or has become filled with fluid or blood (pericardial effusion).
- Heart failure: It can detect cardiac muscle that is weak, stiff, or thickened, which can be a symptom of heart failure.
Doctors frequently utilize the test to determine the cause of an abnormal electrical heart test, known as an electrocardiogram (EKG).
The method is also used to track how effectively the heart responds to various heart treatments, such as heart failure, drugs, prosthetic valves, and pacemakers.
If a doctor suspects a patient has cardiac abnormalities, an echocardiography will be ordered. The following are signs and symptoms that could suggest a cardiac condition:
- an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- shortness of breath
- high or low blood pressure
- leg swelling
- abnormal EKG results
- unusual sounds between heartbeats, known as heart murmurs
Types of echocardiogram
Different types of echocardiograms are available, all of which use high-frequency sound waves. The following are some of the most frequent types.
The most common form of echocardiography is the transthoracic echocardiogram.
An ultrasound wand called a transducer is placed on the outside of the chest, near the heart, for this test. Sound waves are sent through the chest and into the heart via the device.
Sound waves move more easily when a gel is applied to the chest. These waves bounce off the heart and appear on a screen as images of the heart’s architecture.
A thinner transducer attached to the end of a lengthy tube is used in a transesophageal echocardiogram. The tube will be swallowed and inserted into the esophagus, which connects the mouth to the stomach and runs behind the heart.
Because it gives a “close up” view of the heart, this type of echocardiography produces more detailed images of the heart than the typical transthoracic echocardiogram.
Doppler ultrasounds are used by doctors to check blood flow. They accomplish this by producing sound waves at specified frequencies and observing how the waves bounce off and return to the transducer.
Color doppler ultrasounds can be used by doctors to map the direction and velocity of blood flow in the heart. The blood flowing toward the transducer shows red, while the blood flowing away appears blue. It can also tell you how bad the blockages are.
A doppler ultrasound can detect issues with valves or holes in the heart’s walls, as well as let doctors examine how blood flows through it.
A detailed 3D image of the heart is created through a 3D echocardiography. 3D echocardiograms can be used by doctors to:
- plan heart valve or structural interventional surgery
- image complex structures within the heart
- assess valve functionality in people who have heart failure
- assess the function of the heart in 3D
- diagnose heart problems in infants and children
A doctor can order an echocardiogram as part of a stress test. A stress test involves physical exercise, such as walking, jogging on a treadmill, or riding a bike.
During the test, the doctor will keep track of your heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical activity in your heart.
Before and after the activity, a sonographer will do a transthoracic echocardiogram.
Stress tests are used by doctors to diagnose:
- heart failure
- problems affecting the heart valves
- ischemic heart disease
- coronary heart disease
Point-of-care (POC) echocardiogram
A POC echocardiogram is a type of echocardiogram that can be performed at a patient’s bedside by a clinician. These can assist a doctor in answering specific inquiries about possible differential diagnoses.
Limited and focused POC echo are the two types of POC echo.
A limited echocardiogram aids a clinician in determining the cause and repercussions of a heart injury. A focused echo is used by a doctor to assist narrow down the list of other possible diagnoses or to answer a specific query.
With each heartbeat, a POC echocardiogram can determine how well the left or right ventricles pump blood.
A fetal echocardiogram allows doctors to see the heart of an unborn baby. This check is normally done between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. Because echocardiograms do not involve radiation, they are safe for both the mother and the infant.
Interpreting the results
The echocardiographic images will be sent to the doctor who requested the test by the sonographer after the exam. The doctor will examine the photos for indicators of cardiac disease, such as:
- abnormal chamber size
- poorly functioning valves
- chamber size
- masses in the heart, such as blood clots or tumors
- damaged heart muscle tissue
- pumping function of the heart
- thick or thin ventricle walls
What can it miss?
Echocardiograms are very useful in detecting structural heart abnormalities. They may, however, not be the ideal way to check the coronary arteries.
Blockages can cause the structure of the heart. Changes in cardiac function, weak muscles, or thinner heart walls are frequently detected by doctors, prompting them to order additional tests such as a coronary angiogram.
Echocardiograms cannot detect conduction disorders or electrical difficulties that impact the heart’s rhythm, but they can measure the effects of these abnormalities on the heart.
Echocardiogram vs. electrocardiogram
An echocardiogram should not be confused with an electrocardiogram, or EKG, which is another diagnostic procedure. The electrical impulses or waves that flow through cardiac muscle tissue are measured by an EKG.
The electrical activity in the heart causes the heart muscle tissues to contract and relax, resulting in the rhythmic heartbeat that a stethoscope can detect.
Electrodes are placed on the skin of the chest, arms, or legs by a qualified technician, nurse, or doctor. These electrodes capture electrical activity and transfer it to a computer, which translates it into a graph that a doctor may see.
Are there any side effects?
An echocardiogram has a very minimal risk of problems or side effects. When the sonographer guides the tube down the throat during a transesophageal electrocardiogram, the person’s gag reflex may be triggered. After the exam, some people may experience a sore throat.
A significant consequence, such as injury to the throat, vocal cords, or esophagus, can occur very rarely as a result of the transesophageal echocardiogram.
Some people may have an adverse reaction to local anesthetics, sedatives, contrast dyes, or saline used during the exam. Only use contrast dyes if absolutely essential when pregnant.
The following are some of the potential negative effects of contrast dyes:
During a stress test, some people may experience changes in blood pressure or a reduction in oxygen delivery to the heart. In the event that a person has any issues during the assessment, a stress test will be performed in a fully equipped medical facility.
When a person is given sedatives, the stomach contents have a risk of entering the lungs. To avoid this, the patient will be asked to come to the surgery on an empty stomach.
Doctors utilize echocardiography to diagnose heart-related issues. A doctor will assess how well a person’s heart pumps blood during the test.
Doctors can also use echocardiography to check for indicators of cardiac disease such weak heart muscle, blood clots inside the heart, or malfunctioning heart valves.
An echocardiogram may be ordered by a clinician if a patient exhibits symptoms of heart disease, such as:
- heart murmurs
- irregular heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- abnormal blood pressure
- leg swelling
The test has a low risk of serious problems or side effects in general. However, some people may have discomfort, and other people may be allergic to the contrast material or anesthesia.
What to know about cerebrovascular disease
Cerebrovascular disease is a term that encompasses a variety of ailments, diseases, and disorders that affect the brain’s blood arteries and blood flow.
If the brain cells are deprived of oxygen due to a blockage, malformation, or hemorrhage, brain injury can occur.
Cerebrovascular disease can be caused by a number of causes, including atherosclerosis, in which the arteries narrow; thrombosis, or embolic arterial blood clot, in which a blood clot forms in a brain artery; and cerebral venous thrombosis, in which a blood clot forms in a brain vein.
Cerebrovascular disease is the sixth leading cause of mortality in the United States. In 2017, it resulted in 44.9 deaths per 100,000 people, totaling 146,383 deaths.
People can, however, take actions to lower their risk of acquiring cerebrovascular disease. We’ll go through the symptoms, kinds, and treatments for these major health issues, as well as how to avoid them, in this post.
Cerebrovascular disease can be caused by a number of factors.
If a blood artery in the brain is damaged, it will be unable to provide enough or any blood to the brain region it serves. The absence of blood obstructs the supply of necessary oxygen to brain cells, which causes them to die.
Damage to the brain is irreversible. Emergency assistance is critical in reducing the likelihood of long-term brain damage and increasing a person’s chances of life.
Cerebrovascular disease is mostly caused by atherosclerosis. This happens when high cholesterol levels combine with inflammation in the brain’s arteries, causing cholesterol to form a thick, waxy plaque that narrows or blocks blood flow.
This plaque can restrict or totally block blood flow to the brain, resulting in a cerebrovascular event such as a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
Cerebrovascular disease includes stroke, transient ischemic attack, and subarachnoid hemorrhage.
Aneurysms and hemorrhages can be dangerous to one’s health. A blockage can occur when blood clots develop in the brain or migrate there from other parts of the body.
Cerebrovascular disease comes in a variety of forms, including:
Ischemic stroke: A blood clot or atherosclerotic plaque stops a blood artery that provides blood to the brain, resulting in a stroke. A clot, or thrombus, can develop in an already narrowed artery.
A stroke happens when the brain cells die due to a lack of blood flow.
Embolism: The most frequent form of ischemic stroke is an embolic stroke. When a clot from elsewhere in the body breaks off and goes to the brain, it blocks a smaller artery.
Arrhythmias, or irregular heart people, increase the risk of embolism.
Ischemic stroke can be caused by a rupture in the lining of the carotid artery in the neck. The rip allows blood to travel between the carotid artery’s layers, narrowing it and limiting blood flow to the brain.
Hemorrhagic stroke: When a blood artery in a portion of the brain becomes weak and breaks open, blood leaks into the brain.
The leaking blood puts pressure on the brain tissue, causing edema and brain tissue damage. Nearby parts of the brain may also lose their supply of oxygen-rich blood as a result of the hemorrhage.
Cerebral aneurysm or subarachnoid hemorrhage: These can be caused by structural issues with the brain’s blood arteries. An aneurysm is a weakened area of the artery wall that can burst and cause bleeding.
When a blood artery ruptures and bleeds between two membranes covering the brain, it is known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
The leakage of blood has the potential to harm brain cells.
Learn more about a thrombus, which can lead to an embolism, in this article.
The symptoms of cerebrovascular disease vary depending on where the blockage is located and how it affects brain tissue.
Different events may have different consequences, however the following are frequent symptoms:
- losing vision on one side
- loss of balance
- becoming unconscious
- paralysis of one side of the body, or hemiplegia
- weakness on one side, also known as hemiparesis
- a severe and sudden headache
- difficulty communicating, including slurred speech
Response to an emergency
The American Stroke Association promotes public awareness of the F.A.S.T. acronym as a tool for detecting and responding to stroke warning signs:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 911
If somebody displays symptoms of a cerebrovascular stroke, they should get medical help right away since it can have long-term consequences including cognitive damage and paralysis.
The most frequent form of cerebrovascular incident is a stroke.
Stroke risk rises with age, especially if a person or a close family has already experienced a cerebrovascular event. Between the ages of 55 and 85, this risk doubles every ten years.
A stroke, on the other hand, can strike at any age, including infancy.
Stroke and other kinds of cerebrovascular disease are caused by a number of factors, including:
- poor diet, and lack of exercise
- blood cholesterol levels of 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or higher
- hypertension, which the American College of Cardiology define as blood pressure of 130/80 mm Hg or higher
A person’s chances of developing a cerebral aneurysm are increased by the same circumstances. People who have a congenital abnormality or have had head trauma, on the other hand, may be at a higher risk of developing a cerebral aneurysm.
Cerebral venous thrombosis, a blood clot affecting a vein in the brain, can also be increased by pregnancy.
Other cerebrovascular disease risk factors include:
- a vein of Galen malformation, an arterial disorder that develops in a fetus during pregnancy
- venous angiomas, which affect around 2% of the U.S. population and rarely bleed or cause symptoms
- Moyamoya disease, a progressive condition that can lead to a blockage of the cerebral arteries and their major branches
Certain medications and medical conditions can cause blood to clot more easily, increasing the risk of ischemic stroke.
In people who currently have atherosclerosis or carotid artery disease, hormone replacement treatment (HRT) may raise the risk of a heart attack.
A cerebrovascular episode need immediate medical attention. Because a person must get stroke drugs within a specified time frame from the beginning of symptoms, rapid assessment and treatment are critical.
In the event of an acute stroke, the emergency team may deliver tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a drug that dissolves the blood clot.
A brain hemorrhage requires the attention of a neurosurgeon. They may do surgery to relieve the increased pressure caused by a bleed.
A carotid endarterectomy is a procedure that includes cutting a hole in the carotid artery and removing plaque. This re-establishes blood flow. The artery is then repaired with stitches or a graft by the surgeon.
Carotid angioplasty and stenting, which includes a surgeon putting a balloon-tipped catheter into the artery, may be necessary for some people. The balloon will subsequently be inflated to reopen the artery.
The surgeon next inserts a thin metal mesh tube, known as a stent, into the carotid artery to increase blood flow in the previously occluded artery. After the treatment, the stent keeps the artery from collapsing or shutting up.
People may endure temporary or permanent incapacity as a result of a cerebrovascular accident, which can cause lasting brain damage.
As a result, they may need a variety of supportive and rehabilitative therapies in order to maintain as much function as feasible.
These might include the following:
- Occupational therapy: This can assist a person in gaining access to resources that will enable them return to employment and daily life.
- Psychological therapy: Physical disabilities might result in unforeseen emotional demands that need extensive retraining. If a person feels overwhelmed following a cerebrovascular incident, they may benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor.
- Physical therapy: This seeks to improve limb function, mobility, and flexibility.
- Speech therapy: After a stroke or a cerebrovascular episode, this may help people speak more effectively and restore speech.
Reducing the risk of stroke
Blood platelet inhibitors like Dipyridamole, Ticlopidine, and Clopidogrel can help prevent strokes before they happen. These can help prevent stroke in people who have had a stroke before or who have a high risk of developing one
Doctors used to suggest that people take aspirin every day to lower their risk of heart attack or stroke. Current guidelines, on the other hand, recommend that people take aspirin only if they are at high risk of a cardiovascular event and have a low risk of bleeding.
This is due to the fact that aspirin raises the risk of bleeding.
Statins are drugs that are prescribed by doctors to lower and control high cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of ischemic stroke and heart attack.
Any cerebrovascular incident is a medical emergency, and anybody who notices the symptoms should call 911 for assistance. The importance of early detection in preventing brain injury cannot be overstated.
A doctor will inquire about the patient’s medical history and look for particular neurological, motor, and sensory problems, such as:
- abnormal eye movements
- muscle weakness
- changes in vision or visual fields
- decreased sensation
- reduced or altered reflexes
A vascular abnormality, such as a blood clot or a blood artery defect, can be detected using a cerebral angiography, vertebral angiogram, or carotid angiogram. Injecting dye into the arteries reveals any clots and allows CT or MRI imaging to show their size and form.
Because it can distinguish between blood, bone, and brain tissue, a CAT scan can aid in the diagnosis and detection of hemorrhagic strokes. However, especially in the early phases of an ischemic stroke, it does not always detect damage.
Even early-stage strokes can be detected with an MRI scan.
A cardiac arrhythmia, which is a risk factor for embolic strokes, can be detected by an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG).
The following are some methods for lowering the risk of cerebrovascular disease:
- getting at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every week is recommended
- maintaining a healthy body weight by consuming a balanced diet that promotes vascular health, such as the DASH diet, as recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- stop smoking
- managing blood cholesterol and blood pressure with diet and medications if necessary
People who have heart arrhythmia should talk to their doctor about whether or not they should take a blood thinner to avoid strokes.
Although stroke and other cerebrovascular events can result in death, full or partial recovery is possible with prompt medical intervention. To lower the risk of a stroke, people with cerebrovascular disease should follow healthy lifestyle advice and their doctor’s instructions.
The outlook is determined by the sort of occurrence, its intensity, and the speed with which a person receives care.
Cerebrovascular disease can kill someone or leave you disabled for a long time. Some people, on the other hand, will fully recover.
The greatest approaches to enhance a person’s outlook with cerebrovascular disease are prompt treatment and a lifestyle that decreases the chance of stroke.