Acute coronary syndrome
Acute coronary syndrome
Acute coronary syndrome is a term used for any condition brought on by sudden, reduced blood flow to the heart. Acute coronary syndrome symptoms may include the type of chest pressure that you feel during a heart attack, or pressure in your chest while you're at rest or doing light physical activity (unstable angina). The first sign of acute coronary syndrome can be sudden stopping of your heart (cardiac arrest). Acute coronary syndrome is often diagnosed in an emergency room or hospital.
Acute coronary syndrome is treatable if diagnosed quickly. Acute coronary syndrome treatments vary, depending on your signs, symptoms and overall health condition.
Acute coronary syndrome symptoms are the same as those of a heart attack. And if acute coronary syndrome isn't treated quickly, a heart attack will occur. It's important to take acute coronary syndrome symptoms very seriously as this is a life-threatening condition. Call 911 or your local emergency number right away if you have these signs and symptoms and think you're having a heart attack:
If you're having a heart attack, the signs and symptoms may vary depending on your sex, age and whether you have an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes.
Some additional heart attack symptoms include:
When to see a doctor
If you have recurring chest pain, talk to your doctor. It could be a form of angina, and your doctor can help you choose the best treatment. Stable angina occurs predictably. For example, if you jog, you may experience chest pain that goes away when you rest. In unstable angina, chest pain isn't predictable and often occurs at rest. It may also be more intense pain than stable angina.
Acute coronary syndrome is most often a complication of plaque buildup in the arteries in your heart (coronary atherosclerosis) These plaques, made up of fatty deposits, cause the arteries to narrow and make it more difficult for blood to flow through them.
Eventually, this buildup means that your heart can't pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body, causing chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Most cases of acute coronary syndrome occur when the surface of the plaque buildup in your heart arteries ruptures and causes a blood clot to form. The combination of the plaque buildup and the blood clot dramatically limits the amount of blood flowing to your heart muscle. If the blood flow is severely limited, a heart attack will occur.
The risk factors for acute coronary syndrome are similar to those for other types of heart disease. Acute coronary syndrome risk factors include:
Preparing for your appointment
Acute coronary syndrome is often diagnosed in emergency situations, and your doctor will perform a number of tests to figure out the cause of your symptoms.
If you're having chest pain or pressure regularly, tell your doctor about it. Your doctor will probably order several tests to figure out the cause of your chest pain. These tests may include a blood draw to check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. If you need these tests, you'll need to fast to get the most accurate results. Your doctor will tell you if you need to fast before having these tests, and for how long.
Your doctor may also want to perform imaging tests to check for blockages in your heart and the blood vessels leading to it.
Tests and diagnosis
If you have signs and symptoms of acute coronary syndrome, your doctor may run several tests to see if your symptoms are caused by a heart attack or another form of chest discomfort. If your doctor thinks you're having a heart attack, the first two tests you have are:
Your doctor will look at these test results and determine the seriousness of your condition. If your blood tests show no markers of a heart attack and your chest pain has gone away, you'll likely be given tests to check the blood flow through your heart. If your test results reveal that you've had a heart attack or that you may be at high risk to have a heart attack, you'll likely be admitted to the hospital. You may then have more-invasive tests, such as a coronary angiogram.
Your doctor may also order additional tests, either to figure out if your heart's been damaged by a heart attack, or if your symptoms have been brought on by another cause:
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for acute coronary syndrome varies, depending on your symptoms and how blocked your arteries are.
Surgery and other procedures
Lifestyle and home remedies
You can take steps to prevent acute coronary syndrome or improve your symptoms.
The same lifestyle changes that help reduce the symptoms of acute coronary syndrome also can help prevent it from happening in the first place. Eat a healthy diet, exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes each day, see your doctor regularly for checks of your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and don't smoke.
Last Updated: 2013-05-07
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