Heart attacks

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart becomes blocked. The blockage most often occurs as a result of fat buildup, cholesterol and other substances, which form a plaque in the coronary arteries. The plaque gradually breaks away and forms a clot. The interruption in blood flow can destroy or damage part of the heart muscle.


A heart attack usually feels like a crushing or burning or chest pain which generally starts in the centre of the chest, but can radiate to any other part of the chest. Some patients describe a heart attack as a feeling of having a band around the chest. The pain may also extend up into the throat, the jaw, the teeth, the ears, either shoulder and even to the back.

General symptoms include:

  • Nausea, indigestion or heartburn
  • The sensation of pressure, tightness, pain, or aching in the chest or arms that can spread to the neck, jaw or back
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling faint or dizzy


It is very important to seek immediate emergency medical assistance if you suspect you or a loved one is having a heart attack.

The type of heart attack you experience determines the treatments that Dr Ntuli will recommend.

Treatment options may include one or more of the following:

  • Angioplasty and stent replacement: a procedure used to open the blocked artery
  • Angiogram: A sheath will be inserted into the big femoral artery in the leg or in the radial artery in the wrist.
  • Catheters: these are passed to the openings of the coronary arteries which run on the outside of the heart to perfuse heart muscle with blood and oxygen.

Balloon angioplasty: used to enlarge the inner lumen of the artery in order to facilitate stent placement. You may also be prescribed medication to manage your symptoms

In addition to medical intervention, patients also need to make certain lifestyle changes to prevent another heart attack. These changes include:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Managing your weight
  • Managing high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Managing stress