A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), means that some heart muscles were injured or died because they didn’t get enough oxygen. An MI occurs when arteries carrying blood to heart muscles (coronary arteries) are blocked.
A heart attack occurs when a blood clot forms in a coronary artery and stops blood flow to the heart muscle, so the muscle is injured or dies. Smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high levels of cholesterol (a fatty substance), and a family history of heart disease and inflammation of the coronary arteries increase the risk of heart attacks.
Chest pain, moderate to severe, is the most common symptom. Pain can also occur in the jaw, back, shoulders, or arms (especially the left arm). Pain is often described as crushing, heavy, or pressurelike. Some people have no pain. Sweating, shortness of breath, fast or irregular heartbeat, nausea, feeling of indigestion, and vomiting are other symptoms. Women and diabetics may have symptoms different from those in men, such as shortness of breath without chest pain.
The health care provider will do an examination, take blood samples, and order electrocardiography (ECG) to see which areas of the heart may have been damaged.
The treatment goal is to save as much heart muscle as possible. The choice of treatment depends on how much time has passed from the start of the heart attack and on the availability of special procedures at the hospital where you are treated. To salvage as much heart muscle as possible, medications to improve circulation and dissolve the clot blocking the artery are given, or a procedure called angioplasty may be done. Other medicine will control pain and blood pressure, and oxygen will help breathing. Other drugs, including aspirin and cholesterollowering drugs (statins), may be suggested.
If angioplasty is done, a catheter (long plastic tube) is placed into a leg artery and passed to the heart to take pictures of coronary arteries. The blocked artery is opened with a small balloon on the tip of a catheter. A small metal wire mesh (stent) put into the blocked coronary artery will help keep the artery from blocking again. Medicine can also stop new blockage.
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