This section of our website provides usual information on various aspects of heart health, heart conditions and issues. To learn more about each topic, click on the title below to see more information.
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack happens when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly then the part of the heart which is serviced by that artery begins to die. The longer the person goes without treatment – the greater the damage.
What to do?
- Call 999 or 112 immediately (911 in USA).
- If you have an aspirin handy give it to the patient as this can help to dissolve the clot/blockage.
What is Cardiac Arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is caused by a malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat. This means that the heart can no longer pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs because its pumping action has been disrupted. Seconds later the person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if that person does not receive treatment.
What to do?
The first thing is to GET INVOLVED; there is a life hanging in the balance and you need to step up to the challenge! The good news is that cardiac arrest is reversible in most cases if it is treated in the first few vital minutes.
- So ring 999 or 112 (911 in USA).
- Begin CPR at once.
- If there is someone else on the scene tell them to locate a defibrillator (AED) and open it and follow the instructions the machine will give you.
- Keep the CPR going until the emergency services arrive and take over from you. Look at the CPR demo elsewhere in this site.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a ‘brain attack’, caused by a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. So recognising the signs of stroke and calling 999 for an ambulance is crucial.
Remember – F.A.S.T!
FACE – Has their face fallen to one side? Can they smile?
ARMS – Can they raise both arms and keep them there?
SPEECH – Is their speech slurred?
TIME TO CALL 999 – If you see any single one of these signs
When stroke strikes, act F.A.S.T – The sooner somebody who is having a stroke gets urgent medical attention, the better their chances of a good recovery.
The risk of having a stroke is higher amongst people in certain ethnic groups, including South Asian, African and Caribbean. This is partly because high blood pressure and diabetes are more common in these groups.
There are also lifestyle factors that may significantly increase the risk of having a stroke. They include:
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise
- Poor diet
- Exceeding the recommended daily alcohol limit*
* Experts recommend that adult women should drink less than 14 standard alcoholic drinks per week. Adult men should drink less than 21 standard drinks per week. Drinking should be spread out over the week and keep some days alcohol-free.
Leading a healthy, active lifestyle is vital to help reduce your risk of having a
Reducing your risk
Some people are more at risk of having a stroke if they also have certain other
medical conditions. These include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat)
It is important that these conditions are carefully monitored and treated.
For more information on preventing a stroke and FA.S.T. go to the Irish Heart
Foundation websites www.stroke.ie or www.irishheart.ie or talk to an Irish Heart Foundation nurse in confidence on their Heart and Stroke Helpline 1890 432 787, Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm.
What is a TIA?
Transient Ischemic Attack (or TIA) is like a stroke, producing similar symptoms, but lasting only for a short space of time and gets better within 24 hours, causing no permanent damage. Often called a “mini-stroke”, a TIA should be taken as a serious warning, as it could be a warning sign of a more serious stroke, so it also needs to be treated as an emergency by calling 999 immediately. About one in three people who experience a TIA are very likely to have a stroke coming down the line.
The positive news is that you may have a chance of avoiding an ischemic stroke if you contact your doctor and seek medical attention without delay. Professional evaluation and identification of potentially treatable conditions in time may help you to avoid a stroke.
Rapid diagnosis of TIA allows urgent steps to be taken to reduce the risk of having a stroke. If you think you have had a TIA in the past and have not sought treatment, contact your GP.
Lifestyle habits will have to be reviewed and where necessary changed ie. no smoking, diet review, less alcohol etc. All those things are in the patients hands.
For further detailed information on Transient Ischemic Attacks go to www.mayoclinic.org.
What exactly is a Pacemaker?
A Pacemaker is used when a heart is damaged and requires help to work properly. A pacemaker helps the electrical system within the heart that controls heart muscle contractions.
So people who have a slow heartbeat as a result of heart damage would probably require a pacemaker.
There is a range of different pacemakers available now due to amazing developments in this field. Your cardiologist is the best professional to guide you to which model is most suitable to your needs.
Inserting a pacemaker is done under a local anaesthetic and the procedure usually lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. Usually and overnight hospital stay is required and after there are regular check-ups to make sure all is in working order.
The check-ups do not take long and all going well can stretch out to a once a year visit.
What is an Angiogram?
An ANGIOGRAM is an invasive procedure to find out whether or not there is a narrowing of the coronary arteries and how the heart is pumping. The procedure takes about half an hour in a cardiac catheter theatre. T he purpose of the procedure is to determine whether narrowing of the arteries has happened and if so to decide the most suitable treatment for the patient. NOTE. You will be asked to fast from midnight before this procedure. Ask your hospital for directions on taking any regular medications before your angiogram.
What is an Angioplasty?
An ANGIOPLASTY (coronary) with the insertion of a stent/s is a way of opening up blocked or narrowed arteries and increasing blood flow to the heart. This can take anywhere between forty minutes to one and a half hours depending on what has to be done. The patient is under a local anaesthetic for the duration.
TIP: As with all medical procedures there is an element of risk so GET AS MUCH INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE BEFORE THE PROCEDURE AND GET ALL YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED AND WORRIES YOU MAY HAVE ADDRESSED.
Some hospitals have very useful leaflets on the various procedures that they perform. Just ask!
What is an Echo?
An ECHO (or to give it it’s full title ECHOCARDIOGRAM) is a Cardiac Ultrasound. A picture of the heart is produced by using sound waves passed through the chest. An ECHO is used to examine the structure and function of the heart. It is a painless and non-invasive procedure. A Transducer which produces sound waves is placed on the chest and this device produces moving images of the heart on screen. These images which are recorded are then viewed and reported on by a Consultant Cardiologist.
What is an ECG?
An ECG (or to give it it’s full title ELECTROCARDIOGRAM) is a graphical representation of the electrical activity of the heart. It is a painless and non-invasive procedure which can be done in your local GP Clinic or in hospital. Electrodes are attached to the skin in the heart, chest, and ankle areas while the patient is in a lying position. The information is recorded in graph format which can be viewed by GP and/or Cardiologist.