Myocardial infarction (from Latin: Infarctus myocardii, MI) or acute myocardial infarction (AMI) is the medical term for an event commonly known as a “HEART ATTACK”. It happens when blood stops flowing properly to part of the heart and the heart muscle is injured due to not receiving enough oxygen. Usually this is because one of the coronary arteries that supplies blood to the heart develops a blockage due to an unstable buildup of white blood cells, cholesterol and fat. The event is called “acute” if it is sudden and serious.
Heart attacks most often occur as a result of coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease. CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque (plak) builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis (ath-er-o-skler-O-sis). The buildup of plaque occurs over many years. Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture (break open) inside of an artery. This causes a blood clot to form on the plaque’s surface. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. If the blockage isn’t treated quickly, the portion of heart muscle fed by the artery begins to die. Healthy heart tissue is replaced with scar tissue. This heart damage may not be obvious, or it may cause severe or long-lasting problems.
Heart Attack Symptoms
• Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone
• Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
• Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
• Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
• Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
• Rapid or irregular heartbeats
• During a heart attack, symptoms last 30 minutes or longer and are not relieved by rest or nitroglycerin under the tongue.
• Some people have a heart attack without having any symptoms (a “silent” myocardial infarction). A silent MI can occur in anyone, but it is more common among people with diabetes.
• Smoking appears to be the cause at about 36 %
• Obesity the cause of 20 % of coronary artery disease
• Lack of exercise has been linked to 7 – 12 % of cases
• Job stress appears to play a minor role, about 3 % of cases
• Chronic high stress levels may cause some cases
• Low socio-economic status such as shorter education, lower income, social isolation
• Negative emotions increase the risk
• Unmarried cohabitation are also correlated with a higher risk of MI
• Alcohol – prolonged exposure to high quantities of alcohol can increase the risk of heart attack
• Trans fats do appear to increase risk
Heart attack is a medical emergency. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you think you or someone else is having a heart attack.
The average person waits 3 hours before seeking help for symptoms of a heart attack. Many heart attack patients die before they reach a hospital. The sooner the person gets to the emergency room, the better the chance of survival. Prompt medical treatment reduces the amount of heart damage. If you think someone is having a heart attack:
• Have the person sit down, rest, and try to keep calm.
• Loosen any tight clothing.
• Ask if the person takes any chest pain medication for a known heart condition, such as nitroglycerin, and help them take it.
• If the pain does not go away promptly with rest or within 3 minutes of taking nitroglycerin, call for emergency medical help.
• If the person is unconscious and unresponsive, call your local emergency number then begin CPR.
• If an infant or child is unconscious and unresponsive, perform 1 minute of CPR, then call emergency number.
• Do NOT leave the person alone except to call for help, if necessary.
• Do NOT allow the person to deny the symptoms and convince you not to call for emergency help.
• Do NOT wait to see if the symptoms go away.
• Do NOT give the person anything by mouth unless a heart medication (such as nitroglycerin) has been prescribed.
• If you smoke, quit. Smoking more than doubles the chance of developing heart disease.
• Keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes in good control and follow your doctor’s orders.
• Lose weight if obese or overweight.
• Get regular exercise to improve heart health. (Talk to your doctor before starting any new fitness program.)
• Eat a heart-healthy diet. Limit saturated fats, red meat, and sugars. Increase your intake of chicken, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Your health care provider can help you tailor a diet specific to your needs.
• Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. One drink a day is associated with reducing the rate of heart attacks, but two or more drinks a day can damage the heart and cause other medical problems.