Our heart is “simply” a large muscle that continuously pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body supplying cells, tissues and organs with life-giving oxygen and nutrients. The cells of the body release carbon dioxide and other gases as a by-product of producing energy. These gases are removed from the blood as it circulates through the lungs.
A heart attack results when blood is blocked from getting into the arteries that feed the heart. If not treated rapidly, parts of the heart muscle may die from lack of oxygen. After a heart attack, danger signals released by dying cells trigger inflammation which in turn attracts immune cells into the area to clear dead cells and tissue debris.
The high numbers of inflammatory immune cells stick to the plaque, increasing the risk for another heart attack. The body tries to heal itself by transforming the damaged heart muscle cells into scar tissue. Because scar tissue is hard and not flexible, a badly scarred heart cannot pump blood efficiently.
For any sort of healing, the body has to produce the right amount of inflammation. There has to be sufficient inflammation for the healing process, but not so much that excessive scarring occurs. Depending on how much scar tissue forms, congestive heart failure may result due to the inability of the heart to pump normally.
Our cells produce cholesterol which is essential for a wide range of biological functions. The body has to manufacture the right amount of cholesterol and which has to go to specific parts of the body. If too much cholesterol is produced over many years, cholesterol plaque builds up in the arteries resulting in atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is triggered by lifestyle issues that cause uncontrolled inflammation such as high blood pressure, smoking, poor dietary choices and excessive weight.
Plaque deposits narrow the passageways of arteries and block the flow of blood in vessels that feed the heart itself. The plaque may eventually harden, burst and release blood platelets that form clots in an attempt to stop the bleeding. The blood clots may cause even more blockages in the arteries, obstructing blood and oxygen flow and causing more heart damage. An artery to the heart which is blocked may result in a heart attack; a blocked artery in or leading to the brain results in a stroke.
What is a Heart Attack?
1) Acting fast at the first sign of heart attack symptoms can save lives and limit damage to the heart. Heart attack treatment works best when it’s given right after symptoms occur. If you think you, or someone else is having a heart attack, even if you’re not sure, call emergency services immediately.
2) Current therapies for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease do not target inflammatory cells. Maintaining the body in immune homeostasis, immune balance, may help the body support healthy heart and cardiovascular function.