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

FDA approves broader use of clot-prevention drug

Ticagrelor (Brilinta), a drug that prevents dangerous blood clots, was granted an expanded approval by the FDA. Doctors can now prescribe the drug in people at high risk of a heart attack as well as those who have already had one. More »

11 foods that can help lower your cholesterol

People with elevated LDL cholesterol values may be able to reduce their LDL levels by eating more foods that are rich in fiber and lower in saturated fats. High-fiber foods include whole grains, beans, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. Saturated fats are found mainly in meat, cheese, and other high-fat dairy products such as butter, half and half, and ice cream. More »

How serious is bundle branch block?

A bundle branch block refers to a small glitch in the heart’s electrical conduction system, which can occur on the right or left side of the heart. Possible symptoms include shortness of breath, lagging energy, and fainting. (Locked) More »

How stress can harm your heart

Emotional stress may raise heart attack risk as much as smoking and high blood pressure. Stress has been linked to heightened activity in the brain’s fear center (amygdala), which signals the bone marrow to release white blood cells. These cells contribute to chronic inflammation and atherosclerosis. Strategies such as yoga, tai chi, mindfulness meditation, regular exercise, and adequate sleep may help mitigate the risk. But so far, the evidence is limited. (Locked) More »

The questions about fish oil supplements

Some research says taking a daily fish oil supplement can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, while other studies say the evidence remains thin. While fish oil is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids (essential nutrients that the body cannot make on its own),  taking an over-the-counter fish oil supplement probably provides no extra heart benefit beyond a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of omega-3-rich fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. (Locked) More »

The facts about testosterone and sex

Testosterone, the hormone that gives men their many masculine qualities, naturally declines with age. While increasing levels with testosterone replacement therapy may improve sex drive and performance, it is not for everyone and even may increase certain health risks. (Locked) More »