Heart attack occurs when there is a blockage of the blood flow to the heart that prevents the heart from getting enough oxygen. The blockage is usually a buildup of fat and cholesterol which forms a plaque in the coronary arteries that feed the heart muscle.
More than one million Americans suffer from heart attacks every year. Also known as myocardial infarctions (MI), heart attacks are the death of tissue due to a lack of blood supply that can cause long-term, if not permanent, damage to the heart muscle.
Heart Attack Symptoms
When blood supply to the heart is blocked, the result is a heart attack. Look out for the following signs and symptoms of a heart attack:
- Discomfort, heaviness, pressure, squeezing or severe pain in the chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
- Fullness, nausea, heartburn, indigestion or abdominal pain
- Cold sweat
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
What to Do If You Have a Heart Attack
If you are experiencing a heart attack, call 911 at the very first signs of trouble. If you don’t have access to emergency medical services, have somebody drive you to the nearest hospital right away.
Take nitroglycerin if prescribed by your doctor.
Taking aspirin during a heart attack can reduce the damage by keeping the blood from clotting. Take an aspirin if a doctor or emergency personnel recommend it.
Immediate treatment is crucial to lessen the damage to the heart and open up the blocked artery. The best time to treat a heart attack to ensure your heart has a higher chance of survival is within the first one to two hours after the symptoms start.
Heart Attack Treatments
Treatment begins immediately after a heart attack, often in the ambulance or at the hospital. Many heart attack medications can limit heart damage, prevent blood clots and stabilize plaque. Medications can help your heart function better, reduce pain and avoid life-threatening heart damage.