What Is a Heart Attack?

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Also known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack occurs when blood flow to part of the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes blocked. If the blood flow is cut off for more than a few minutes, this muscle’s cells begin to die from lack of oxygen.

The most common cause of heart attacks is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD results from atherosclerosis, a condition in which a fatty substance called plaque builds up on the inside walls of the coronary arteries, the large vessels that supply blood to the heart.

Eventually, plaque can rupture, and after the body repairs the site, a blood clot can form. If the clot becomes large enough, it can either partly or completely block the artery, resulting in a heart attack.

The extent of damage to the heart depends on how long the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen. If blood flow is not restored within 20 to 40 minutes, the heart muscle will begin to suffer irreversible damage, which leads to scarring. Over time, this can lead to complications such as heart failure and life-threatening arrhythmias.

Stephanie Trelogan

Stephanie Trelogan writes about heart disease, stroke, and depression issues that concern people caring for their aging parents. See full bio

over 6 years, said...

When a cardiologist tells you that there is nothing that can be done to help as in the case of having two blockages one at 95% and the other at 98% with stents not an option or fraility of arteries preventing by-pass surgery, an electric circuitry problem also the lower tip of heart already dead what does one do? Are any studies being done to disolve plaque?

over 7 years, said...

please, keep me inform and update any helpful information. thanks

over 7 years, said...

1. the article is very helpful 2. can pictures be included, for various conditions 3. keep sending as much info

almost 8 years, said...

Ignorance may cost you your life. Spread of knowledge particularly by patients' experience and no -profit guidance by charitable organizations is welcome. Commercialization is destroying true knowledge and creating confusion among patients too. One should be cautious in that respect.

about 8 years, said...

thank you for info but my husband already passed from a sudden myocardial infarction

over 8 years, said...

In the cases of heart attack and cardiac arrest, or any other heart shocks, time sets to be the most crucial factor for the survival of the patient. Sometimes, a little knowledge regarding the immediate actions to be taken may help your near and dear ones to survive in such incidents. The response a person takes to treat a victim decides the probability of his/her survival. Its been my personal experience fighting to survive against a heart attack. A quick reorganization of your bodily responses may increase your chances of survival. Because of having many heart problems, I was enrolled in a concierge Healthcare program from elite health. I was attacked by a severe heart attack in a party, luckily surrounded by many people. Some of the sudden changes in my body was recognized by me and anticipated immediately. I got a very severe chest pain which was almost unbearable for more than a minute. I got the suspicion that I might be having heart attack, and immediately called my physician on the phone, and explained my condition and its severity. Because of the immediate guidance, I was directed immediately to have an aspirin which I used to carry with me as prescribed by my physician. It was quite a frightening experience for me to face such a heart attack, but somehow I managed to be calm until 911 arrived. I was immediately taken to the nearest hospital, where already my physician were present and have got everything setup according to my medical history. And it was in some matter of seconds that everything was in control. A doctor, who already have the complete knowledge of the medical history and fitness of the person, extra ordinarily ameliorate your recovery process. Hence such a concierge level program from Elite health, helped me a save my life, like many others.