Heart Attack

During a heart attack, the blood supply that normally nourishes the heart with oxygen is cut off and the heart muscle begins to die.

Some people who are having a heart attack have warning signs, while others show no signs. Many people report chest pain, upper body pain, sweating, nausea, fatigue, and trouble breathing.

A heart attack is a serious medical emergency. Seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms that could signal a heart attack.

What causes a heart attack?

There are a few cardiac conditions that can cause heart attacks. One of the most common causes is plaque buildup in the arteries atherosclerosis that prevents blood from getting to the heart muscle. Heart attacks can also be caused by blood clots or a torn blood vessel. Less commonly, a heart attack is caused by a blood vessel spasm.

What are symptoms of a heart attack?

Symptoms for a heart attack may include:

  • chest pain or discomfort
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • fatigue

There are many more symptoms that can occur during a heart attack, and symptoms can differ between men and women.

What are some risk factors of a heart attack?

A number of factors can put you at risk for a heart attack. Some factors you can’t change, such as age and family history. Other factors, called modifiable risk factors, are ones you can change. The risk factors that you can’t change include:

  • Age: If you are over 65, your risk for having a heart attack is greater.
  • Sex: Men are more at risk than women.
  • Family history: If you have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes, you are more at risk.
  • Race: People of African descent are at higher risk.

Modifiable Risk Factors:

  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diet and alcohol consumption
  • Stress reduction

How do you diagnose a heart attack?

A diagnosis of heart attack is made by a doctor after they perform a physical exam and review your medical history. Your doctor will likely conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG) to monitor your heart’s electrical activity.

Blood work and other tests are performed  to see if there’s evidence of heart muscle damage.

What types of tests and treatments are available?

If your doctor diagnoses a heart attack, they will use a variety of tests and treatments depending on the cause.

Common procedures include:

  • catheterization, cardiac
  • angioplasty: opens the blocked artery by using a balloon or by removing the plaque buildup
  • stent: a wire mesh tube is inserted into the artery to keep it open after angioplasty
  • cardiac bypass surgery: reroutes the blood around the blockage

Your doctor may also prescribe medications to treat your heart attack, including:

  • aspirin
  • anticoagulants
  • nitroglycerin
  • blood pressure medications

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