Management of all heart conditions & related problems
Coronary Artery Disease
Vascular Heart Diseases
Heart Attack
High Cholesterol Levels
Congestive Heart Failure
Chest Pain
Heart Attack
What happens during a heart attack?
The heart muscle requires a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood. The coronary arteries provide the heart with blood. If you have coronary artery disease, the inside of your coronary arteries may look like this:
Plaques (made of fatty matter, calcium, and stray cells) of different sizes attach to the walls of the arteries. Many of the plaques are hard on the outside and soft and mushy on the inside. The plaque builds up and narrows the artery.
When the plaque's hard, outer shell ruptures (cracks or tears), platelets (disc-shaped particles in the blood that aid clotting) come to the area, and blood clots form around the plaque.
If a blood clot totally blocks the artery, the heart muscle becomes "starved" for oxygen and nutrients (called ischemia) in the region below the blockage. Within a short time, death of heart muscle cells occur, causing permanent damage. This is called a myocardial infarction (MI) or heart attack.
A heart attack can also occur less frequently by a spasm of a coronary artery. During coronary spasm, the coronary arteries constrict or spasm on and off, causing lack of blood supply to the heart muscle (ischemia). It may occur at rest and can even occur in people without significant coronary artery disease. If coronary artery spasm occurs for a long period of time, a heart attack can occur.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Ask your doctor about your risk of heart attack and how to reduce this risk.

Share this information with your family members and caregivers so they learn to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and when to help you seek emergency treatment.

If you are having any one of the symptoms described below that lasts for more than 5 minutes, SEEK EMERGENCY TREATMENT WITHOUT DELAY. These symptoms could be the signs of a heart attack and immediate treatment is essential.

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

Chest pain or discomfort in the center of the chest; a “squeezing,” “heaviness” or “crushing” feeling that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back
Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
Sweating or “cold sweat”
Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like “heartburn”)
Nausea or vomiting
Extreme weakness or anxiety
Rapid or irregular heart beats

Do not wait for your symptoms to “go away.” Early recognition and treatment of heart attack symptoms can reduce the risk of heart damage and allow treatment to be started immediately. Even if you’re not sure your symptoms are those of a heart attack, you should still be evaluated.

Some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms (a "silent" myocardial infarction). A silent MI can occur among all patients, though it is more common among diabetics. If you have a silent MI, your heart attack may be diagnosed during a routine doctor’s exam.

The first symptoms start the clock

At the first signs of a heart attack, call for emergency treatment.

The best time to treat a heart attack is within the first one to two hours from the first onset of symptoms. Studies show that the people who have symptoms of a heart attack often delay, or wait to seek treatment, for longer than seven hours.

People who delay tend to be older, female and to have a history of angina, high blood pressure or diabetes.

Do not wait :
Fast action can save lives - including your own

Reasons people delay

They are young and cannot believe it is happening to them
Symptoms are not what they expected
They may deny the symptoms are serious and wait until they go away
They may ask the advice of others, especially family members
They may first try to treat the symptoms themselves, using aspirin or antacids
They may think the symptoms are related to other health problems (upset stomach, arthritis)
They may put the care of others first (first take care of children or other family members) and not want to worry them.

Waiting just a couple hours for medical help may limit your treatment options, increase the amount of damage to your heart muscle, and reduce your chance of survival.

Know in advance: 

The symptoms of a heart attack.
Who to call for emergency help. Do not call a friend or family member. Call for an ambulance to take you to the nearest A&E.

Treat all chest discomfort as angina or a heart attack unless your doctor has told you otherwise.

Treatments (medications, open heart surgery and interventional procedures) do not cure coronary artery disease. Having had a heart attack or treatment does not mean you will never have another heart attack; It CAN happen again.

Copyright The Cardiac Center. All Rights Reversed. HomeBack to top