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What Is a Heart Attack?

By J. Beam
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A heart attack is the death of heart muscle caused by blockage of a coronary artery. Medically referred to as a myocardial infarction, this condition occurs when a coronary artery is blocked, depriving the heart of blood and oxygen. This deprivation to the heart causes chest pain and pressure, injury to the heart, and possibly death.

Though a heart attack occurs suddenly, the cause can be sudden or gradual. The leading cause of heart attacks is artherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, due to the build up of plaque caused by cholesterol deposits. If artherosclerosis occurs in the coronary arteries, the gradual narrowing of these arteries begins to have an impact on the heart muscle and eventually leads to an infarction. Similarly, a blood clot can also create a blockage of a coronary artery ending in the same result.

The symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain and pressure, shortness of breath, arm and upper back pain along with possible nausea or vomiting. However, medical experts have estimated that close to 25 percent of attacks are silent, giving the patient no warning symptoms whatsoever. This is why routine health care, including monitoring risk factors and heart heath, is important.

Whether a heart attack carries severe symptoms or none at all, the damage can be the same. A heart attack is considered a life-threatening emergency and any signs or symptoms, no matter how mild, should be checked by a doctor. Delaying treatment increases the chance of permanent damage and reduced heart function or even death. The longer the heart is deprived of adequate blood flow and oxygen, the more damage done. If a large enough amount of heart muscle dies, heart failure will follow.

Further, injury to the heart muscle can also lead to ventricular fibrillation, which is an irregular heart beat caused by abnormal electrical activity. If the heart fails to beat and pump blood normally, blood supply to other parts of the body, including the brain, is disrupted. Brain damage can occur within a matter of minutes if it is deprived of the oxygen it needs.

Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments of a heart attack is crucial for maintaining heart health. Adopting a lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management can significantly reduce the risk. For those looking to enhance their nutritional intake, incorporating the best greens powder into a daily regimen may offer an additional boost of vital nutrients that support overall cardiovascular function. By staying informed and proactive, individuals can take meaningful steps toward protecting their heart and ensuring a healthier, more vibrant life.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Discussion Comments
By pharmchick78 — On Jul 24, 2010

Heart attacks also vary in degrees of seriousness.

For instance, while a full blown heart attack involves complete blockage of arteries, a mild heart attack may only involve partial artery blockage, or even intermittent blockage.

However, without treatment even a mild heart attack can be dangerous, so it's really important to get any signs and symptoms checked out as soon as possible.

By closerfan12 — On Jul 24, 2010

The signs of heart attack in women are different from those in men too.

For instance, women are more likely to experience prolonged sleep disturbances and indigestion rather than straight up chest pain.

Unusual fatigue, particularly when coupled with shortness of breath while doing everyday activities is another tell-tale sign.

By rallenwriter — On Jul 24, 2010

A common mistake to make when recognizing a heart attack coming on is to confuse it with really bad heartburn.

Some people, particularly those with pre-existing gastrointestinal problems, may not recognize that the chest pain they are experiencing is heart-related, rather than heartburn.

That's why it's so important to monitor the other symptoms, like pressure and numbness, shortness of breath, etc.

Too many people forget to look for groups of symptoms, rather than just one, and end up endangering themselves.

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