A heart

Heart Attack

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when an atherosclerotic plaque in a coronary artery suddenly ruptures. The plaque rupture triggers the clotting mechanism within the artery, causing a blood clot to form and blocking the blood flow. If the blockage is severe enough, the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die and a heart attack occurs.

Classic symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, shortness of breath, and heightened anxiety, although some people may experience a different set of symptoms. A heart attack is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does a heart attack feel like?

    The majority of people who have experienced a heart attack describe a fullness, tightness,  burning sensation, or intense pressure in the chest. Some have also reported a sense of “impending doom.” The symptoms may come on suddenly, begin gradually and come and go, or feel like a dull, steady ache.

  • How long does a heart attack last?

    A heart attack can come on suddenly and last around 30 minutes, or it can come on more gradually, with symptoms such as chest pain coming and going over the course of a few hours. Because a heart attack can be life-threatening if not treated immediately, it is important to know the warning signs and get emergency help if you think you might be having a heart attack.

  • What are the signs of a heart attack?

    Symptoms of a heart attack most commonly include chest pain, nausea or vomiting, stiffness or numbness in the neck or ams, and shortness of breath. The symptoms are often different in women, and may include extreme fatigue, pain in both arms (men usually have it in only one arm), and anxiety.

  • How can you prevent a heart attack?

    Lifestyle factors that can reduce your risk of a heart attack include quitting smoking, getting regular aerobic exercise, keeping conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol under control, and eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats. Once someone has had a heart attack, they may be prescribed medications such as aspirin and statins to help prevent another one.

  • What causes a heart attack?

    The most common cause of a heart attack is the rupture of a plaque–a build-up of lipids and other substances in the coronary artery. This rupture causes the formation of a blood clot, which can impede blood flow to the heart. Other potential causes include blood clotting disorders, atrial fibrillation, and viral infections of the heart.

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