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What is Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is interrupted. This deprives the heart muscle of oxygen, causing tissue damage or tissue death. Other names for heart attack include coronary attack, myocardial infarction, coronary thrombosis, and coronary occlusion.

Heart Attack
Heart Attack
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Heart attack is an outcome of coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease. If too much plaque (fatty material) builds up in the coronary arteries, it can decrease the blood flow to the heart. If the plaque tears, a blood clot will form that may close off or severely narrow the artery. A heart attack occurs when the clot blocks the flow of blood to the heart. Cells in the heart start to die if they are without oxygen-rich blood for more than a few minutes. Heart attack...

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop a heart attack with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of having a heart attack. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Some risk factors are lifestyle habits that you can modify. Other factors, like family history, are out of your control.

Lifestyle Factors

Smoking and Second-Hand Smoke

Cigarette smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have a heart attack and are more likely to die from a heart attack than nonsmokers. Patients who continue to smoke in the presence of already established coronary heart...

Chest pain is the hallmark symptom of a heart attack. But not everyone having a heart attack experiences the same crushing pain. In particular, women, the elderly, or people with diabetes may experience no pain, or atypical symptoms. If you experience chest pain or any of the symptoms listed below in combination with chest discomfort, call emergency medical services (9-1-1) immediately. Do not delay. The more of these symptoms you experience together, the more likely it is that you may be having a heart attack. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. Emergency medical personnel can begin treatment before you reach the hospital.

Heart Attack Symptoms
Heart Attack Symptoms
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain
  • May start as mild discomfort and progress to more intense pain
  • May...

Related Media: Coronary Angiography

A heart attack requires immediate emergency medical care. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. At the emergency room, you will be hooked up to a cardiac (heart) monitor, so medical personnel can monitor your heart’s electrical activity. You will also undergo several different tests that will help the doctors to determine the appropriate treatments for you.

The following tests will likely be performed in the hospital:

Blood tests—Certain substances are found in the blood within hours or days after a heart attack. Blood tests will be repeated every 6-8 hours to track certain enzymes (eg, troponins, creatine kinase). Progressive elevation indicates heart muscle damage.

Urine tests—A sample of urine will...

You can lower your risk of heart attack by making modifications to your lifestyle. If you have already had a heart attack, or have several risk factors for heart disease that put you at high risk, your doctor may recommend certain medications to lower your risk of first or recurrent heart attack.

General Guidelines for Preventing Heart Attack

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Eat a heart healthy diet:
    • Low in saturated fat and cholesterol
    • Rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables
    • Absent of trans fatty acids
  • Exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes per day of moderately intense activity on most days of the week).
  • Take your medications as directed.
  • Lose excess weight.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, and take into account risks...

American Heart Association Address:

7272 Greenville Ave Dallas, TX 75231 Phone:

Internet Address: Description of services provided:

The American Heart Association provides educational materials about heart attack, stroke, and other heart conditions. The national voluntary health agency’s mission is to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The Mended Hearts, Inc. Address:

7272 Greenville Ave. Dallas, TX 75231-4596 Phone:

Internet Address: Description of services provided:

Mended Hearts is affiliated with the American Heart Association. It provides support for heart patients, families, and...

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