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Heart Attack

Also called: Acute Myocardial Infarction, MI, Myocardial Infarction, Acute MI, Acute Heart Attack, A Coronary

- Summary
- About heart attacks
- Role of atherosclerosis
- Measuring inflammation
- Risk factors and causes
- Signs and symptoms
- Diagnosis methods
- Treatment options
- Prevention methods
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Sumit Verma, M.D., FACC
Robert I. Hamby, M.D., FACC, FACP
Lee B. Weitzman, M.D, FACC, FCCP

Summary

A heart attack is an event that results in permanent heart damage or death. It is also known as a myocardial infarction, because part of the heart muscle (myocardium) may literally die (infarct). A heart attack occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes severely or totally blocked, usually by a blood clot. When the heart muscle does not receive the oxygen-rich blood that it needs, it will begin to die. The severity of a heart attack usually depends on how much of the heart muscle is injured or dies during the heart attack.

The signs of a heart attack include chest pain that may extend to a patient's neck, shoulder or arms. Heart attack victims also may develop other symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting or dizziness. In some cases, there may be no symptoms prior to a heart attack.

Immediate treatment for a heart attack should always include proA heart attack happens every 29 seconds and is usually due to coronary artery disease (CAD).fessional emergency medical intervention, including a call to 911 if the patient lives in an area with such access. While waiting for help to arrive or on the way to the hospital, patients are often instructed to chew aspirin, which has been shown to inhibit blood clots. A person's chance of surviving a heart attack depends on the treatment that is given within the first hour of the event.

 
After a heart attack, people may need from two weeks to more than six weeks of recovery time, depending the severity of the attack. Patients are strongly advised to use cardiac rehabilitation programs to recover quickly and safely from a heart attack. Lifestyle changes (e.g., diet, exercise) and medications may also be part of long-term treatment for heart attack patients.

Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of heart attacks in the United States. There are a number of risk factors associated with heart disease and heart attacks. Being overweight, smoking and not participating in regular physical exercise raises a person's risk of having heart-related problems, including a heart attack.

The American Heart Association estimates that in 2007, about 700,000 Americans will suffer a new heart attack and about 500,000 will have a recurrent attack. Additionally, another 175,000 silent first heart attacks will occur. The average age for a first heart attack is 65.8 years for men and 70.4 years for women.

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Review Date: 02-17-2007
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