A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle itself (the myocardium) is suddenly severely reduced or stopped. This occurs when one of the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle) is blocked by an obstruction, which is often plaque due to heart disease.
A heart attack also can be caused by a blood clot lodged in a coronary artery. This event is sometimes called a coronary thrombosis or coronary occlusion. If the blood supply is cut off drastically for a long time, muscle cells suffer irreversible injury and die.
If you have signs of a heart attack, doctors may elect to do several tests, all of which are performed at Health Alliance hospitals. The two most common procedures, electrocardiograms and cardiac catheterizations, are performed upon admittance to the hospital at the first sign of a heart attack. If these tests are inconclusive or fail to produce the desired results, angioplasty or bypass surgery may be performed. The Christ Hospital, The University Hospital, and The Jewish Hospital are Tristate leaders in such procedures.
The first step in reducing your risk of heart attack is being aware of the risk factors that increase your chances of getting heart disease.
What is the difference between angina and a heart attack?
- Angina is only a temporary reduction of the flow of the blood to the heart; a heart attack is a sudden, permanent stopping of the flow of blood to the heart.
- Heart attack chest pain is more severe and lasts longer.
- Angina pain will go away with rest or medication; heart attack pain does not.
- Both angina and a heart attack can be accompanied by indigestion, sweating or nausea, however, heart attack symptoms are typically milder.
- Angina does not cause permanent damage to the heart muscle; a heart attack causes permanent damage.
Risk Factors of Heart Attacks
Many factors influence your chance of becoming a victim of heart disease. The more risk factors present in your life, the greater the risk to your health. Although some risk factors cannot be changed, many others can be controlled or changed by you. The best way to help prevent heart disease is to be aware of the risk factors that you cannot control and to control the risk factors you can under the direction of a doctor.