Muamba’s heart at­tack

The Jewish Chronicle - - Life/food -

AF­TER THE col­lapse of Bolton foot­ball player Fabrice Muamba there was a lot of wrong ter­mi­nol­ogy be­ing used in the me­dia. Dif­fer­ent things can hap­pen to the heart and the jar­gon can be quite con­fus­ing.

To un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent terms it is im­por­tant to know a few facts about the heart: its job is to be a pump, push­ing blood around the body. It does this by squeez­ing the blood out and push­ing it on its way — beat­ing in other words.

The heart knows to beat con­stantly be­cause it has its own spe­cial nerves that cre­ate an elec­tri­cal im­pulse for ev­ery beat. These im­pulses start very soon af­ter con­cep­tion.

The heart is made up of a unique type of mus­cle and has its own blood sup­ply, pro­vid­ing the en­ergy — well, re­ally the oxy­gen — to beat con­stantly.

A heart at­tack is when the blood sup­ply to the mus­cle sud­denly goes wrong, starv­ing it of oxy­gen and caus­ing it die. This hap­pens when one of the heart’s own blood ves­sels be­comes blocked, most com­monly by a blood clot from a furred up artery.

Heart fail­ure refers to the heart’s job as a pump. The heart squeezes a set amount of blood each time it beats. If you have heart fail­ure the pump is less ef­fi­cient and can­not cope with squeez­ing the same amount of blood each time. It does not mean your heart is about to stop; it means it isn’t work­ing as well as it should. Ac­tu­ally, heart fail­ure is quite a mis­lead­ing term, and would prob­a­bly be bet­ter termed heart in­ef­fi­ciency.

Heart fail­ure com­monly fol­lows a heart at­tack. Be­cause some of the heart mus­cle dies af­ter an at­tack, its power to squeeze out blood is re­duced, and so heart fail­ure de­vel­ops.

Other com­mon causes of heart fail­ure are high blood pres­sure, and prob­lems with the heart valves.

A car­diac ar­rest is when the heart stops beat­ing. The spe­cial elec­tri­cal im­pulses stop so the heart no longer knows to beat. This hap­pens when we die.

The elec­tri­cal im­pulse can some­time be started again by de­fib­ril­lat­ing or “shock­ing” the heart: this was how Muamba’s heart was restarted.

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