Muamba’s heart attack
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.