Heart Health

22 December 2008

Heart attack: why did it happen?

The medical staff at the hospital would probably have told you why you had a heart attack or “myocardial infarction”. However, it's often difficult to concentrate in times of shock


The medical staff at the hospital would probably have told you why you had a heart attack or "myocardial infarction". However, it is often difficult to concentrate in times of shock...

A heart attack is caused by a lack of blood - and the oxygen it supplies - to the heart. The heart’s own set of arteries has become clogged up by fatty deposits. This makes it difficult for the blood to reach the heart. An area of the heart gets no more blood and is damaged.

The problem with a heart attack is that the heart is put off its natural rhythm. After a few days of regulating the heartbeat in hospital, it settles down. With the right care, the patient can continue his life with a few adjustments.

The heart is one of the toughest muscles in the body and has an amazing capacity to heal itself.

What caused the heart attack?
A process that probably kicked off when you were still very young causes a heart attack. This process is called atherosclerosis and involves the depositing of fat in the arteries surrounding the heart. This restricts the blood flow through the arteries.

Atherosclerosis can, however, be prevented. It is caused by:

  • Smoking.
  • A diet rich in fat.
  • A lack of physical activity.
  • Overweight.
  • Coping with stress in the wrong way.

If these factors were applicable to your lifestyle before the heart attack, you should try to cut them out of your life after the attack. This could prevent another attack in future.

Source: "Heart attack: what now?" produced by Parke-Davis, courtesy of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa.

- (Updated May 2008)


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