Heart Attack, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits

Heart attack, also known as acute myocardial infarction, is a condition that happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked, most often caused by coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease happens when the coronary arteries become blocked by fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances that build up plaque in the arteries. Since these arteries supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood, when they become clogged with plaque there is a lack of oxygen supplied to the heart muscle that can cause damage and muscle death. Heart attack is most often caused by the area of plaque rupturing, leading to a blood clot and subsequent blockage of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.

Heart attack is the leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly 1.1 million Americans have a heart attack each year and nearly half result in death.

There are many causes and risk factors for heart attack. While a few risk factors are not lifestyle oriented, most are. Smoking tobacco, eating a diet high in fat and cholesterol, obesity, stress, overconsumption of alcohol, physical inactivity, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus can all attribute to causing a heart attack. Increasing age, being male and certain hereditary factors are also included as major risk factors.

Heart attack is when there is tissue death due to lack of oxygen to the heart, though it is sometimes confused with other conditions such as cardiac arrest (when the heart stops beating), heart failure (when the pumping action is damaged), an abnormal heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia) and sudden cardiac death. While these can be related to each other, they are not the same as a heart attack.

Symptoms of heart attack are shortness of breath, chest pain, pain the in the left arm and left side of the neck, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, fatigue, fainting, sweating and heart palpitations. Nearly one-fourth of heart attacks do not warn the victim with chest pain and other symptoms, making it a silent killer.

When a heart attack occurs 9-1-1 should be called and an ambulance should be dispatched; immediate treatment is required. Pain relief in the form of nitroglycerin, aspirin, morphine or other pain relievers will be administered, oxygen supply and many diagnostic tests will follow. In emergencies, bypass surgery will be an option.

Rehabilitation from a heart attack will include physical exercise, cardiac rehabilitation, smoking cessation, alcohol limitations and lifestyle and diet changes.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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