What Is a Heart Attack?

Featured Article, Healthy Heart, Heart attack
on August 13, 2011
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A heart attack is serious and is considered the leading cause of death for men and women in much of the world. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, as many as 1.2 million people each year have heart attacks in the United States. Understanding causes and symptoms of a heart attack is crucial to getting the care needed. The quick action by the emergency room physicians is often the difference between life and death when it comes to heart attacks. But exactly what’s going on during a heart attack?

The genesis of a myocardial infarction. Unhealthy habits in diet and lifestyle contribute to coronary heart disease. This condition develops when a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries and their proper operation are crucial to the influx of oxygen-rich blood in the heart. Coronary heart disease eventually contributes to a blockage due to plaque buildup or a rupture of plaque buildup that clogs the heart and its arteries. Either way, the condition is dangerous and causes a heart attack.

Severe vasospasms also cause heart attack. Much less common, the tightening of a coronary artery that is not normal will lead to a heart attack. What happens to the heart in this case is a severe spasm cuts the flow of blood to the heart. Atherosclerosis is not necessarily a precursor in this type of heart attack.

A stressful event may trigger a heart attack or myocardial infarction. Keep in mind that physical exertion, happiness and many other events can cause a stress reaction. Whatever the trigger, the tightness or pressure in the chest is unmistakable once felt.

The feeling of having a heart attack is not pleasant. Lightheadedness, anxiety and shortness of breath follow, with the pressure in the chest continuing and even growing. Some people express the sensation of a shooting pain down their left arm or even a strong feeling of indigestion as well. Once a heart attack is over and managed, heart problems are a concern. Complications from a heart attack include heart damage, dead heart tissue and arrhythmia (life-threatening irregular heartbeats). Quick action for someone having a heart attack is imperative.

Note: If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 and get to the emergency room immediately, as survival may depend upon it.