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

How does marijuana affect the heart?

An estimated two million people in the United States with cardiovascular disease currently use or have used marijuana. Converging (yet limited) evidence suggests the drug may be harmful to the heart. Marijuana can cause the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise. Heart attack risk also appears to rise in the hour after smoking marijuana, and the drug has also been linked to an increased likelihood of atrial fibrillation and stroke. (Locked) More »

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 »

Don’t stress about heart health

When stress becomes more frequent or lingers—what’s known as chronic stress—it can cause excessive strain throughout the body and lead to higher inflammation, higher blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and sleep disturbances—all factors that contribute to a higher risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. By practicing certain behaviors, people can train their brain and body not to let chronic stress control them. (Locked) More »

Is nighttime the right time for blood pressure drugs?

Taking blood pressure drugs before bed may lower the risk of serious heart-related problems more than taking the drugs in the morning. Bedtime dosing lowers blood pressure in the early morning, when the risk of heart attack and stroke is highest. People ages 55 and older (who are less likely to experience a decrease in blood pressure at night) may gain the most benefit from nighttime blood pressure dosing. Some blood pressure drugs cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure soon after they’re taken, so doctors advise people to take them at night to avoid falls. Other drugs have a sedating effects, which can help people fall asleep. (Locked) More »