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Heart Attack

Myocardial infarction, also known as heart attack, is an emergency condition in which the heart muscle begins to die as a result of inadequate blood supply. This usually occurs due to blockage in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. As a consequence of absence of blood flow, the affected muscle begins to die. If blood supply to the heart is not restored immediately, a heart attack can cause permanent damage to the heart and even death.

The various symptoms experienced by people who get a heart attack are:

  • Chest pain: This can be mild and may feel like slight discomfort or heaviness, or it may be severe and intolerable. It usually starts from the chest and radiates to other areas, like the left arm, shoulder, neck, jaw, back, or even towards the waist.

  • Breathlessness.

  • Fatigue.

  • Difficulty in falling asleep.

  • Nausea or discomfort in the stomach. It is for this reason that heart attacks are confused for indigestion or heartburn.

  • Palpitations.

  • Feeling of “impending doom”.

  • Sweating profusely.

  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy.

Recently, it has been established that women are less likely to have chest discomfort or pain that feels like indigestion. They are more likely to suffer from symptoms like breathlessness, fatigue, and insomnia. They have higher chances of experiencing nausea, vomiting, and pain radiating to the back, shoulders, neck, arms, and abdomen.

Most of the heart attacks occur as a result of blockage in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This occurs commonly due to deposition of fatty substances in the blood vessel walls, a condition commonly known as atherosclerosis. Sometimes, the deposits can break open or rupture, and a blood clot can form around the site of rupture. If the clot blocks the artery, it can deprive the heart muscles of blood, eventually causing a heart attack.

However, heart attacks are possible without a blockage, too. This is a rare occurrence and can occur due to one of the following reasons:

  • Spasm of the coronary artery

  • Medical conditions that cause narrowing of the blood vessels

  • Obstruction that may come from any part of the body, like a blood clot or air bubble (embolism)

  • Electrolyte imbalance

  • Eating disorders

  • Compression of anomalous coronary arteries

Although anyone can have a heart attack, there are a few conditions that increase the chances of developing heart attack:

  • Chances of having a heart attack increase after the age of 45 in men, while it can increase dramatically after the age of 50 in females.

  • Family history of heart attack.

  • Sedentary lifestyle.

  • Underlying health conditions and diseases, like diabetes, obesity, high lipid levels, and high blood pressure.


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How can heart attack be prevented?

There are a few non-modifiable factors, like family history, age, and sex, that cannot be reversed. However, there are modifiable factors like having an active lifestyle and eating a healthy diet can help keep your heart healthy and prevent heart attack.

How much time does it take for one to recover after a heart attack?

In general, one may get relief from the symptoms of heart attack after receiving treatment. However, one may experience some weakness and fatigue during hospital stay. The average hospital stay for a patient is usually 4–5 days.

Can stress cause a heart attack?

Stress can lead to rise in blood pressure levels, which can pose risk for heart attack and stroke.

Do heart attacks happen suddenly?

Heart attacks can happen suddenly as well as slowly and vary in the degree of intensity. Most of them start slowly with mild symptoms and progress slowly.

What are complications of heart attack?

Arrhythmias, heart failures, heart valve problems, cardiac arrest, depression, and anxiety are some of the complications associated with heart attack. Sometimes, mechanical complications like ventricular defects and free wall rupture can occur.

How does a heart attack feel?

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the chest and last for more than a few minutes. It can lead to a feeling of uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, and fullness.

Can an ECG detect a heart attack?

ECG records the electrical impulses generated by the heart. It helps diagnose a heart attack. It also helps to diagnose the type of heart attack that one may be having. This, in turn, will help us determine the treatment.

How long does a heart attack last?

Heart attacks last for 2–5 minutes. They can also last for 20 minutes if there is a complete blockage.


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