Heart Attack

To do its job—pump blood to every part of the body—the heart needs its own supply of oxygen-rich blood. That pipeline is provided by the coronary arteries. No wider than strands of spaghetti, these arteries deliver blood to hard-working heart muscle cells. A heart attack occurs when blood flow through a coronary artery is suddenly blocked. A blood clot can block flow; so can a sudden spasm of the artery.

Each coronary artery supplies blood to a specific part of the heart. A blockage damages that part of the heart. Depending on the location and amount of heart muscle affected, a blockage can seriously interfere with the heart's ability to pump blood. Since some of the coronary arteries supply areas of the heart that regulate heartbeat, blockages there can cause potentially deadly abnormal heartbeats.

The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain, usually described as crushing, squeezing, pressing, heavy, stabbing, or burning. The pain or feeling tends to be focused either in the center of the chest or just below the center of the rib cage, but it can spread to the arms, abdomen, neck, lower jaw or neck. Other symptoms can include sudden weakness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, breathlessness, or lightheadedness.

If you think that you, or someone you are with, is having a heart attack, call 911 right away. The sooner you call, the sooner treatment can begin — "time is muscle," as emergency room doctors say. The most effective treatments are artery-opening angioplasty with stent placement or an infusion of a clot-busting drug.

Heart Attack Articles

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Take control of rising cholesterol at menopause

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Understanding sudden cardiac arrest

Coronary artery disease is the underlying cause of most cases of sudden cardiac arrest, which means the heart abruptly and unexpectedly stops beating. Most heart attacks do not lead to cardiac arrest. But sometimes, the heart’s ventricles quiver rapidly and irregularly during a heart attack, and this lethal rhythm causes most sudden cardiac arrests. Heart attack survivors who experienced significant muscle damage are also at risk for cardiac arrest. Other possible causes of cardiac arrest include inherited abnormalities of the heart’s electrical pathways or structural changes in the heart, such as those caused by heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy). (Locked) More »

How does marijuana affect the heart?

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The heart of a healthy sex life

Most men who have had a heart attack or heart surgery can resume their normal sex life after a brief recovery period. Other factors, like medication and severity, come into play. Still, the general guideline is that men can resume their regular sexual activity two weeks after a heart attack. After surgery, they can have sex once the incision has healed. (Locked) More »

Keeping tabs on triglycerides

Lowering LDL cholesterol levels is an important way to reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. But people also should monitor their triglycerides—the most common type of fat in the body. In some cases, medications help lower high levels, but lifestyle changes are the preferred method, such as eating healthier carbohydrates, curbing alcohol, losing weight, and increasing exercise. (Locked) More »