Heart Attack

The term ‘heart attack’ is commonly used to describe a blockage in a heart artery. A more accurate name is myocardial infarction.

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Heart Attack

An myocardial infarction (MI) is the sudden death of part of the heart muscle cells (myocardium) from a blockage of the blood supply to that part of the heart (coronary artery thrombosis).

This is the final result of disease of the two coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood and is one of the major killers in the world.  Layers of cholesterol build up inside the coronary arteries. These can rupture, blocking the with the sudden formation of a blood clot on the ruptured plaque or layer.

Occasionally the blockage is brought on by spasm of the muscle walls of the coronary arteries. It can also be the result of an abnormal, very fast heart rate, where the heart muscle demands more oxygen than the blood supply can provide.

MI is more often in men than in women, and mostly in people over 40 years old.

Diagnosis should be confirmed with an electrocardiogram (ECG). This device draws a tracing of the electrical changes occurring in the heart with each beat. It also shows which part of the heart muscle has been damaged.

Heart attack must be distinguished from Angina, which may produce similar symptoms. But angina is often mostly relieved by rest, while a heart attack is not. The ECG will provide clear evidence of a heart attack.

The process of infarction causes severe pain, and the immediate reduction in heart efficiency causes a range of other symptoms. Half of those who die from a particular attack do so from heart failure (cardiac arrest) within 3 to 4 hours of onset, so anyone suspected of having a heart attack should seek urgent medical attention.

Other sources of information for these topics.

Act In Time to Heart Attack Signs
... Heart Attack Signs. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. About this site Resources for Health Professionals Resources for Patients and the Public ...

Heart Attack, Stroke & Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs
Know the warning signs of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest, and what to do if they appear. You could save someone's life.

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