What happens to human vital signs before and during a heart attack?

Q:

I would like to know exactly what changes occur in a person's blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, temperature, and any other circumstantially relevant vital signs in the time leading up to and during a myocardial infarction, especially leading to cardiac arrest, heart failure, or death in general. I would also like to know the same information with regards to ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes.

By: Micah

A:

The heart requires a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood. The coronary arteries provide the heart with necessary blood. In coronary artery disease, these arteries are narrowed with cholesterol plaque buildup, and eventually blood clots can form around the plaque, blocking the artery and resulting in lack of blood flow and nutrients. This leads to reducing of blood supply to the heart, or ischemia, and eventually permanent heart muscle tissue damage, which is called a myocardial infarction or a heart attack. So, the questions is “what happens to human vital signs before and during a heart attack?”

Vital signs including heart rate and blood pressure can both be elevated before a heart attack. Most of the time the heart rate increases and blood pressure decreases during a heart attack. However, this may not be the case in all patients since certain medications, such as beta blockers, control the heart rate. In terms of blood pressure during a heart attack, it really depends on the area of the heart involved and the severity of the heart attack.

A massive anterior myocardial infarction (one type of heart attack) affecting the main coronary arteries will cause severe low blood pressure, or hypotension, leading to cardiogenic shock. Inferior or posterior myocardial infarctions (another type of heart attack!!) involving different secondary coronary arteries can, but to a lesser degree, cause hypotension. Also, less severe heart attacks are often associated with elevated blood pressure or hypertension, which is good prognosis for recovery. 

An important factor is the types of medications that a patient is taking at the time of the heart attack because this can cause baseline lower blood pressure and decreased cardiac contractility so the heart does not have to work as hard in a patient with coronary artery disease.

Controlling risk factors for heart disease is important to prevent heart attacks and early recognition of signs and symptoms of heart attack is essential for treatment.

by: on: 09 Nov 2015

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