When the blood supply to part of the heart muscle (myocardium) is severely reduced or stopped, a heart attack occurs, i.e., a myocardial infarction. This reduction or stoppage happens when one or more of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the myocardium is blocked and is usually caused by the buildup of plaque (fat-like deposits) or atherosclerosis.
This plaque can eventually burst, tear or rupture, creating a place for a blood clot to form or block the artery. If blood supply is stopped for more than a few minutes, muscle cells suffer permanent injury and die, thereby killing or disabling someone.
A heart attack is a medical emergency and prompt treatment increases the chance for survival. If you suspect that you or someone around you is experiencing a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately.
Symptoms of heart attack can vary considerably, even among patients who have experienced a previous heart attack. Occurring suddenly and causing severe, intense symptoms, most heart attacks begin slowly and cause mild discomfort that may come and go. In some cases, there are no symptoms (“silent heart attack”).
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
- Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back
- Pain or discomfort that radiates to other areas of the upper body (e.g., one or both arms, shoulders, back, neck, jaw or abdomen)
- Shortness of breath (may occur prior to chest pain, may accompany it, or may occur without it)
- Lightheadedness or fainting (may occur with or without chest pain)
- Cold sweat or paleness (may occur with or without chest pain)
- Nausea (may occur with or without chest pain)
And may include:
- Intense sweating
- Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue
Contact us if you would like to know more about heart attacks and how we can help with prevention and/or treatment.