Heart attack ? What is a heart attack?

A heart attack (or myocardial infarction) occurs when a coronary artery, one of the blood vessels that supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle, becomes blocked. The area of heart muscle that does not receive blood begins to die. In some cases, individuals may have a heart attack from causes other than the blockage of a coronary artery. However, the cause of heart muscle damage is the same. An area of the heart does not receive adequate oxygen-rich blood and the heart muscle dies. The other causes can include cocaine overdose, blood vessel spasms, and severe anemia. The vast majority of heart attacks are caused by blood vessel leakage. The seriousness of a heart attack depends on how much of the heart is affected. Often the surrounding healthy muscle keeps working; allowing the heart to keep pumping while the injured muscle heals and recovers some of its strength. The death of heart muscle may result in weakening of the heart, heart valve damage, and irregular heartbeats.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

The signs of a heart attack can be subtle and hard to identify. Many people don't recognize the symptoms even when they are in the middle of a major heart attack. The amount of time that passes before you receive treatment can mean the difference between life and death. Learn about the symptoms of heart disease and your own risk factors. Get help immediately even if you are not sure you are having a heart attack.

A heart attack feels different to different people. The typical symptoms of a heart attack include heavy chest pain or tightness, often radiating to the left arm or left shoulder, accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, and nausea. Even if you have already had a heart attack, a second one may not feel the same. Or you may feel pain only in your arms, jaw, or back. Other warning signs of a heart attack include dizziness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or weakness. Remember that a heart attack does not always cause severe chest pain. Patients with diabetes tend to have heart attacks that do not present with the classic symptoms of chest pain or tightness. If you suspect that you are having a heart attack, call 911 for prompt medical treatment.

Why do heart attacks occur?

Heart attacks nearly always occur in-patients with coronary artery disease. CAD is caused by the slow build-up over many years of fatty cholesterol-containing deposits in the inner wall of one or more of the heart arteries. These fatty deposits, called plaques, may narrow the artery channel considerably. When this condition is severe it can lead to a blood clot at the point of narrowing, blocking the artery completely.

What if a cardiac arrest occurs?

Cardiac arrest is recognized when the patient suddenly becomes unconscious, there is no pulse and often no breathing. If an arrest occurs in hospital or an ambulance, the doctors or ambulance staff gives the patient an immediate controlled electric shock using a defibrillator machine. This shock restarts the heart, which then pumps effectively.

If a cardiac arrest occurs at home or in the street, the patient cannot survive unless pumping of blood and a supply of oxygen resume within a very short time. This means someone has to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which combines external heart massage and mouth-to-mouth breathing. CPR can keep a cardiac arrest patient alive until an ambulance

With a defibrillator arrives. Every adult and teenager should learn this life-saving technique. The Heart Foundation in your state can tell you how and where to learn CPR.

What procedures should I take if I have the symptoms of a heart attack?

Getting prompt treatment for a heart attack can be lifesaving. If you experience one or more symptoms of a heart attack, act quickly and take the following steps:

Sit down or lie down.

If symptoms persist for 2 minutes, call 911 or your local emergency number and say you may be having a heart attack. Leave the phone off the hook so that medical personnel can locate your address if you should become unconscious.

If you have nitroglycerin tablets, take up to three pills, one at a time every 5 minutes if you continue