A it , also known as a myocardial infarction, is a serious and often life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to the heart is blocked. This can occur due to a variety of reasons, but is most commonly caused by the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. When a plaque buildup becomes severe enough, it can cause a blockage, leading to a it.
Symptoms of a it vary. Some people have mild symptoms. Others have severe symptoms. Some people have no symptoms.
Common it symptoms include:
- Chest pain or discomfort: This may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center or left side of the chest. It may also spread to the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath: This may be sudden and severe, or it may come on gradually. It may also be accompanied by chest pain.
- Nausea or vomiting: Some people may experience stomach upset or vomiting during a heart attack.
- Cold sweats: Sweating, especially cold and clammy sweats, can be a sign of a heart attack.
- Lightheadedness or dizziness: Feeling faint or dizzy during a heart attack is not uncommon.
- Fatigue: Some people may feel tired or have a lack of energy during a heart attack.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat: A heart attack may cause the heart to beat faster or irregularly.
- Discomfort in other areas of the body: Some people may feel pain or discomfort in their arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach during a heart attack.
When to see a doctor
Get help right away if you think you’re having a heart attack. Take these steps:
- Call for emergency medical help. If you think you’re having a it, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only if there are no other options.
- Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed to you by a health care provider. Take it as instructed while awaiting emergency help.
- Take aspirin, if recommended. Taking aspirin during a it may reduce heart damage by preventing blood clotting.Aspirin can interact with other drugs. Don’t take an aspirin unless your care provider or emergency medical personnel say to do so. Don’t delay calling 911 to take an aspirin. Call for emergency help first.
What to do if you see someone who might be having a heart attack
If someone is unconscious and you think they’re having a it, first call 911 or your local emergency number. Then check if the person is breathing and has a pulse. If the person isn’t breathing or you don’t find a pulse, only then should you begin CPR.
- If you’re untrained in CPR, do hands-only CPR. That means push hard and fast on the person’s chest — about 100 to 120 compressions a minute.
- If you’re trained in CPR and confident in your ability, start with 30 chest compressions before giving two rescue breaths.
- More Information
There are several factors that can increase the risk of a it, including:
- High blood pressure: This puts extra strain on the heart and can lead to the formation of plaque in the arteries.
- High cholesterol: High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol can lead to plaque formation and blockages in the arteries.
- Smoking: This increases the risk of heart attack due to the harmful chemicals inhaled, which can damage the arteries and increase the risk of blood clots.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can damage the arteries and increase the risk of heart attack.
- Lack of physical activity: A sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of heart attack due to the increased risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart attack due to the increased strain on the heart and the risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Family history: If you have a family history of heart disease, you may be at a higher risk of heart attack.
- Stress: Chronic stress can increase the risk of heart attack due to the increased production of stress hormones, which can damage the arteries.
Heart attack risk factors include:
- Age: Heart attack risk increases with age, especially in men over 45 and women over 55.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure puts extra strain on the heart and can lead to heart attack.
- High cholesterol: High levels of cholesterol in the blood can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which increase their risk of it.
- Smoking: Smoking damages the blood vessels and increases the risk of heart attack.
- Obesity: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart attack.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity increases the risk of heart attack.
- Stress: Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attack.
- Family history: Having a family history of its increases a person’s risk of having one.
- Poor diet: A diet high in unhealthy fats, salt, and processed foods increases the risk of it.
There are several potential complications that can arise after a it:
- Heart failure: When the heart is damaged during a it, it may not be able to pump blood effectively, leading to heart failure.
- Cardiogenic shock: This occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, resulting in low blood pressure and inadequate oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells.
- Heart arrhythmias: After a it, the heart may develop irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to further problems such as fainting or stroke.
- Heart rupture: In rare cases, the heart can rupture or tear during a heart attack, leading to internal bleeding and possible death.
- Psychological effects: A it can also have significant psychological effects, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There are several steps you can take to prevent a heart attack:
- Eat a healthy diet: This includes eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats, salt, and sugar.
- Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week.
- Quit smoking: If you smoke, quitting will significantly reduce your risk of heart attack.
- Control your blood pressure: High blood pressure can increase your risk of it. Talk to your doctor about ways to control your blood pressure through lifestyle changes or medication.
- Manage stress: Chronic stress can increase your risk of heart attack. Find ways to manage stress through activities like meditation, yoga, or exercise.
- Get regular check-ups: Seeing your doctor regularly can help identify any potential risk factors for it and allow for early intervention.
- Take medications as prescribed: If you have been prescribed medications to manage conditions such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, make sure to take them as directed by your doctor.