Heart attackWhat happens in a heart attack?

Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that blocks one of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries bring blood and oxygen to the heart. If the blood flow is blocked, the heart is starved of oxygen and heart cells die.

A hard substance called plaque can build up in the walls of your coronary arteries. This plaque is made up of cholesterol and other cells. A heart attack can occur as a result of plaque buildup.

  • The plaque can develop cracks or tears. Blood platelets stick to these tears and form a blood clot. A heart attack can occur if this blood clot completely blocks oxygen-rich blood from flowing to the heart. This is the most common cause of heart attacks.
  • The slow buildup of plaque may almost block one of your coronary arteries. A heart attack may occur if not enough oxygen-rich blood can flow through this blockage. This is more likely to happen when your body is stressed (for example, by a serious illness).

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

Causes of heart attack 

The cause of heart attacks is not always known. Heart attacks may occur:

  • When you are resting or asleep
  • After a sudden increase in physical activity
  • When you are active outside in cold weather
  • After sudden, severe emotional or physical stress, including an illness

Cardiogenic shock is a state in which the heart has been damaged so much that it cannot supply enough blood to the organs of the body. This condition is a medical emergency.


A heart attack is a medical emergency. If you have symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number right away.

  • DO NOT try to drive yourself to the hospital.
  • DO NOT DELAY. You are at greatest risk of sudden death in the early hours of a heart attack.

Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack. You may feel the pain in only one part of your body, or it may move from your chest to your arms, shoulder, neck, teeth, jaw, belly area, or back.

The pain can be severe or mild. It can feel like:

  • A tight band around the chest
  • Bad indigestion
  • Something heavy sitting on your chest
  • Squeezing or heavy pressure

The pain usually lasts longer than 20 minutes. Rest and a medicine called nitroglycerin may not completely relieve the pain of a heart attack. Symptoms may also go away and come back.

Other symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cough
  • Fainting
  • Light-headedness, dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Palpitations (feeling like your heart is beating too fast or irregularly)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating, which may be very heavy

Some people (the elderly, diabetics, and women) may have little or no chest pain. Or, they may have unusual symptoms (shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness). A ‘silent heart attack’ is a heart attack with no symptoms

Content sourced from: medico.in

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