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10 things that happen during a heart attack

Want to know what happens during a heart attack? Find out here.

Written by Pavitra Sampath |Updated : May 22, 2014 10:18 AM IST

What happens during a heart attackThe number of people who suffer from heart disease is constantly on the rise. Many die due to heart attacks and doctors tirelessly tell you about the classic symptoms of the condition. But do you know what exactly happens inside your body and to your heart during a heart attack? Well, here is a look at a heart attack from your body's perspective.

1. Most heart attacks happen because of a blockage in the blood vessels that supply the muscles of the heart. This blockage happens because of plaque (a sticky substance that is made of fats, cholesterol and white blood cells) buildup on the arterial walls of the heart. Want to control your cholesterol levels? Here is how you can do it.

2. When this plaque gets disturbed it breaks up into a number of tiny pieces that then go and lodge themselves in various places.

3. Thinking that there is a threat to your blood vessel, your red blood cells and white blood cells go an attach themselves to the plaque (just like the would in the case of a wound). While this is a repair mechanism, these cells end up blocking the blood vessel.

4. Once blocked the blood flowing through the heart stops and can no more reach the other parts of the heart muscle. Because of lack of oxygen those parts of the heart muscle start to die.

5. Your body then realizing that the heart is not working properly goes into the 'fight or flight' mode. It sends signal to the spinal cord that the heart in trouble.

6. The spinal cord in turn sends a message to your brain which it interprets as pain in the jaw, left hand and chest also known as referred pain. Read about the classical symptoms of a heart attack.

7. In an attempt to survive your body starts to sweat profusely (this is actually a very useful mechanism since it makes you look ill and people are more likely to take you to the hospital).

8. Your breathing also becomes labored as your heart can no longer supply your lungs with blood and oxygen, so it also stops functioning optimally.

9. Apart from the lungs the brain also gets affected and one starts feeling dizzy. This is when you are likely to collapse from lack of oxygen to the essential organs of your body. Read about why you should not neglect dizziness.

10. The muscles of your heart that have been deprived of oxygen die. The sad part is that once a part of the heart muscle dies it can never be regenerated.

Incidentally when you suffer a heart attack, the first one hour from onset is the most crucial time and your life could be saved if you are given adequate medical care within that time. Doctors call this the 'golden hour' as it is the only time that dying muscle fibers, the rest of the heart and other organs can be salvaged.

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

Think you might suffer from a heart attack? Here are some first aid tips.

For more on heart disease, check out our heart disease section. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates! For daily free health tips, sign up for our newsletter. And to join discussions on health topics of your choice, visit our forum.

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