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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Updated criteria improve heart attack diagnosis, from the February 2013 Harvard Heart Letter

One person’s heart attack can be very different from another’s. Experts now define six different types of heart attack, reports the February 2013 Harvard Heart Letter. Identifying the cause of an attack helps determine the best way to treat it.

Because heart attack symptoms can differ from person to person, diagnosing one requires the combination of a doctor’s judgment, signs and symptoms, and test results, such as changes in the heart's electrical activity seen on an electrocardiogram. Experts now also advise using a blood test for troponin, a protein released by damaged heart muscle cells.

The latest guidelines for diagnosing a heart attack call for a troponin level that is substantially higher than normal, plus one or more of the following:

  • One or more heart attack symptoms, such as chest pain; sudden heaviness, weakness, or aching in one or both arms; sudden shortness of breath; and others
  • Worrisome changes on an electrocardiogram or imaging test
  • Identification of a clot in a coronary artery

Defining heart attack categories and spelling out clear guidelines for diagnosis will pay off for people struck by a heart attack. “We are laying the groundwork for heart attack care to be standardized. This will allow you to get the same state-of-the-art treatment at your local hospital or at a hospital anywhere in the world as you will at a Harvard-affiliated hospital,” says Dr. James Januzzi, Jr., a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of the task force that updated the definition for heart attack.

Read the full-length article: "Our concept of heart attack is changing"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Heart Letter

  • Our concept of heart attack is changing
  • Ask the doctor: What does my doctor mean by "clearance for surgery"?
  • Ask the doctors: Can I stop taking antiplatelet drugs to have my hip replaced?
  • New approach to fighting heart disease
  • Aortic aneurysm: a potential killer
  • How sleep apnea affects the heart
  • Can you die of a broken heart?
  • Some heart attacks go unrecognized
  • Heart Advances from Harvard: Risk factors for peripheral artery disease pinpointed
  • Heart Beat: Aspirin may prevent blood clots in the legs from recurring

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.