What Exactly is a Heart Attack?

If you’ve experienced chest pain, nausea, and shortness of breath that lasts more than several minutes, you may be experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack. While many people associate heart attacks with the cliche image of an older man clutching his chest and falling to the ground, this type of heart attack (also known as an acute myocardial infarction) accounts for only about 15% of all heart attacks. For example, these kinds of heart attacks often occur when plaque builds up in an artery that leads to the heart, cutting off blood flow.

What is Inflammation

A heart attack occurs when coronary arteries become blocked, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching parts of your heart. This blockage can be caused by a build-up of plaque (or atherosclerosis) on artery walls or by clots forming on arterial walls. Both scenarios cause inflammation that prevents oxygenated blood from reaching cells in your heart muscle, which results in tissue damage and eventually cardiac arrest. This process may take several hours—not minutes—to complete.

What Is Myocardial Infarction (MI)?

MI occurs when an artery supplying blood to your heart becomes blocked by an obstruction, resulting in tissue death. This sudden blockage of blood flow causes damage or death to part of your heart muscle and can lead to symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath. Sometimes called heart attack, MI occurs when something prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a part of your heart muscle. This can cause lasting damage if it doesn’t get treated right away.

Symptoms of A Heart Attack

Chest pain radiating to one or both arms, back, neck or jaw. This pain can feel like pressure, squeezing, or heavyweight. Nausea and vomiting are common. Some people also experience shortness of breath and lightheadedness. When you’re having a heart attack you might feel scared, anxious, and even out of breath at first. It may seem like these symptoms will never go away.

Who Is at Risk for Having A Heart Attack?

Anyone can have a heart attack. But some people are at higher risk for developing coronary artery disease than others, including: men over age 45, women after menopause, people with diabetes or high blood pressure, and those who smoke. People who have already had one heart attack are also at greater risk of having another. Many of these risks can be controlled through diet and exercise, medications, and stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation.

How Often Do MIs Occur?

Between 25% and 50% of all heart attacks occur without any previous symptoms. This type of heart attack is called an unstoppable or silent myocardial infarction (MI). This can make it very difficult to diagnose. If you are having chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea that lasts more than a few minutes, call 911 right away; these may be signs of a heart attack.

How Can I Prevent Having A MI?

A heart attack, otherwise known as an acute myocardial infarction (AMI), occurs when an artery that supplies blood to your heart becomes blocked. When your coronary arteries become obstructed, it leads to reduced blood flow to your heart. A typical AMI will cause chest pain or discomfort and possibly radiating pain throughout your upper body. Shortness of breath and feelings of impending doom are also common symptoms.

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