A heart attack—sometimes called a myocardial infarction—happens when the blood and oxygen supply does not get to part of the heart. Without blood and oxygen, that part of the heart starves and dies.
Heart damage occurs when the blood flow through a coronary artery or arteries is blocked. This blockage can be caused by coronary artery spasm, blood clots, or atherosclerosis.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of abnormal heart function can be different for different people. Some people will develop "angina" or chest pain that may extend into the arms, neck or jaws and may or may not have shortness of breath. This chest pain may be described as:
- Heaviness or "gas" pain
Other people may have shortness of breath but very little pain—more likely in diabetics and women.
In earlier stages of heart disease, these symptoms may occur when you are exerting yourself with physical activity. As the heart disease progresses, the symptoms may begin to occur more often, be stronger and take less activity to occur. Click image.
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
We encourage you to seek medical help immediately if you have any of the following indicators:
- Uncomfortable pain, pressure, fullness, or squeezing feeling in the center of the chest for more than two minutes
- Pain that spread to the jaws, shoulder, neck or arms
- Dizziness or faintness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath or difficulty with breathing
- Pain that is not relieved with rest or medication (such as nitroglycerin)
Most heart attack patients will survive if they learn the early warning signals and get medical help at once.Pain Can Vary
The pain of a heart attack is not the same for every person. It may be very painful for one person and milder for another. Sometimes people feel that they only have indigestion. Act Quickly
Many times, heart attack victims wait to get help. Some people do so because they are afraid to admit they are ill. Other people just do not know what the symptoms or signals mean. Many times, the symptoms are ignored in hopes the pain will go away.
A heart attack is a medical emergency that may be treated with:
Angioplasty should be done within 90 minutes of your arrival to the hospital. At Owensboro Health, our average "door-to-balloon" time is 64 minutes—significantly lower than the national recommendation.
After a heart attack, most people are treated with drugs to help prevent a recurrence.
Learn more about heart attack treatments at our Health Encyclopedia.
Learn More About Heart Attacks
Learn more about heart attacks at our Health Encyclopedia.
Download our Heart Education Binder for a comprehensive guide to various heart conditions—including heart attacks—as well as surgical procedures and preventative measures you can take for a healthier heart.