People tend to use the term ‘heart attack’ for what is actually two main types of Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) and the least serious one, unstable angina. The two main types are STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction) and an NSTEMI (non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction. A myocardial infarction is a technical term for a heart attack.

When we speak of STEMI, this is the worst type of heart attack where a major artery to the heart is completely blocked. There is a complete blockage of the artery and no flow of blood. The risk of damage caused to the heart muscle is during the first few hours of blockage. A STEMI is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.

For the right diagnosis of a STEMI, an Electrocardiogram (ECG) is used. The signs and symptoms of a STEMI are central chest pain, difficulty in breathing, lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting and breaking out in a cold sweat.

An ECG will show a raised ST wave, a progression to the Q wave and a full blockage to the coronary artery.

An NSTEMI may be less dangerous for a person since the supply of blood to the heart is not completely blocked but only partially. This means that a smaller section of the heart can face damage as opposed to a larger one. An NSTEMI is a serious condition nonetheless and should not be taken lightly. Without proper and timely treatment, it can progress to serious heart damage similar to a STEMI.

An ECG is used to determine an NSTEMI as well. Doctors consult graphs and determine if the waveform they are seeing is an NSTEMI or a STEMI. These two kinds have very distinct patterns. An NSTEMI will show a T wave inversion, no progression to Q wave and a partially blocked coronary artery.

The signs and symptoms of an NSTEMI are similar to those of a STEMI. However, a blood test and ECG will be able to diagnose it correctly.

The least serious type of ACS is what is known as an ‘unstable angina.’ This can occur even when you’re in a resting state and not active. The pain you feel can be very strong and last for a long while, returning again and again. This is a warning sign that your heart is in trouble and could turn into an NTEMI or a STEMI. Do not ignore persistent chest pains.

How can you reduce your risk of a heart attack?

A change in lifestyle habits can help prevent a heart attack.

Eat the right food for your heart – Fruits and vegetables, whole grains and foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy. Add lesser salt to your meals if your regular intake is considered high. Reduce food consumption that is high in saturated fat and sugary treats. Avoid trans fat altogether.

Take time off to de-stress – Stress of any kind is bad for your heart, mental as well as physical. Find ways to relax that you find enjoyable.

Quit smoking – Tobacco use and smoking cause heart disease. Seek help if you have trouble quitting.

Watch out for high blood pressure, sugar levels and cholesterol. These three are a deadly combination that could soon lead to a heart attack.

The heart is one of the most important organs in our body but receives the least amount of thought and care, being burdened on a daily basis with unhealthy diets and bad habits. Lifestyle changes are incredibly important to give your heart the care it needs. Additionally, regular checkups are an excellent way to ensure your heart is in excellent shape.

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