What should I know about heart attacks?

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is the death of heart muscle due to the loss of blood supply. The loss of blood supply is usually caused by a complete blockage of a coronary artery, one of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle. Death of the heart muscle, in turn, causes chest pain and electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of heart attack?

Chest pain or pressure is the most common symptom of a heart attack; however people who are having a heart attack may experience a variety of conditions that include jaw pain, sweating, heartburn, shortness of breath, jaw pain, toothache, headache, and nausea and vomiting.

What causes heart attacks?

Most of the deaths from heart attacks are caused by ventricular fibrillation of the heart that occurs before the victim of the heart attack can reach an emergency room. Those who reach the emergency room have an excellent prognosis; survival from a heart attack with modern treatment should exceed 90%. The 1% to 10% of heart attack victims who die later include those victims who suffer major damage to the heart muscle initially or who suffer additional damage at later.

How many people have heart attacks each year?

Heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. Each year, about 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack, and heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US.

What exams, procedures, and imaging tests diagnose heart attacks?

Heart attacks are diagnosed with procedures such as coronary angiogram and PTCA (coronary balloon angioplasty), and clot dissolving drugs are available that can quickly open blocked arteries in order to restore circulation to the heart and limit heart muscle damage. In order to optimally benefit heart attack victims and limit the extent of heart damage, these treatments to open blocked arteries should be given early during a heart attack. Blood pressure is not a reliable measurement of whether one is having a heart attack. Blood pressure during a heart attack can be low, normal, or elevated.

What are the treatments and therapies for heart attacks?

Heart attacks that are treated early can prevent or limit damage to the heart muscle. If you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 immediatly for an ambulance.

Drugs that treat heart attacks include, for example, aspirin, nitroglycerin, clot busting drugs, percutaneous coronary intervention, medical procedures, cardiac rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Heart Attack illustration - Myocardial Infarction

Heart Attack illustration – Myocardial Infarction