Heart Attack or Myocardial Infarction

Heart Attack or Myocardial Infarction (or MI)

Heart attack or myocardial infarct occurs when blood flow to part of the heart is blocked. The blockage is usually caused by either a blood clot, or a plaque (sounds like plak) in a coronary artery. The coronary arteries supply blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. Plaques are collections of fatty and hardened or calcified materials in the wall of an artery associated with a condition called arteriosclerosis or atherosclerosis. When the blood and oxygen supply to the heart is restricted too long without treatment, the result is damage or death (infarction) of heart muscle (myocardium).That’s why the term myocardial infarction is also used for a heart attack.

Common symptoms of heart attack include:

 Squeezing chest pain or pressure
 Chest pain that radiates to the arm, neck, or shoulder, usually on the left side
 Tightness in the chest
 Shortness of breath
 Feeling of heartburn, nausea and/or vomiting

Women tend to have fewer of the above common symptoms of a heart attack than men. More likely symptoms in women include:

 Indigestion or gas-like pain
 Nausea or vomiting
 Unexplained weakness or fatigue
 Pain between the shoulder blades
 Repeated chest discomfort

A heart attack is always a medical emergency. Therefore, people who have real chest pain should call 911 because getting treatment at once is very important. Remember that heart attacks are the leading cause of death for both men and women, worldwide.

Key risk factors for heart attack are:

 Previous cardiovascular disease, such as angina, a previous heart attack or stroke
 Tobacco smoking
 Hypertension or high blood pressure
 High blood levels of bad cholesterol and low levels of good cholesterol
 Inactive physical activity
 Congestive heart failure

Health Power Tip Sheets on the Warning signals of a Heart Attack, and the Warning Signals of a Stroke, both of which are based on American Heart Association recommendations, provide additional information on both conditions.