Heart Attack – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Heart Attack

Heart Attack, also known as myocardial infarction is a serious heart problem that occurs when a segment of the heart muscle dies and blood supply is cut off. The loss of blood supply is mostly caused by a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances. All these substances form plaque in the coronary arteries. The plaque breaks away to form a clot, causing the interrupted flow of blood to damage part of the heart muscle.


The symptoms of a heart attack vary from one person to another. Some people experience mild pain, while the pain is more severe in other cases. The symptom can be a sudden cardiac arrest in some people but some have no symptoms at all. However, the level of signs and symptoms that is present in any person is the possible chance that you have a heart attack.

While some heart attack occurs suddenly, many other people have signs and symptoms for hours, days, and even weeks before it finally strikes. Early warnings might be repeated chest pain or pressure (angina) triggered by mental effort and calmed by rest. A temporary decrease in the flow of blood to the heart is known as angina.

Summarily, heart attack signs, and common symptoms include:

  • Cold sweat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion, nausea, abdominal pain or heartburn
  • Pain, tightness, pressure or aching/squeezing sensation in your chest
  • Fatigue
  • Sudden dizziness or light-headedness


A block in one or more coronary arteries results in a heart attack. A condition that is known as coronary artery disease – a buildup of cholesterol and other various substances in the coronary artery causes most heart attacks. When a heart attack occurs, one of the plaques can rupture and thus, spill cholesterol and other various substances into the bloodstream. The rupture forms a blood clot and if large enough, can block blood flow through the coronary artery. The blockage prevents oxygen and nutrients (ischemia) from getting to the heart muscle.

The blockage might be partial or complete. It is partial when you have had a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) and it is a complete blockage when you have had an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Stages involved in diagnosis and treatment may be different depending on the type of blockage involved.

A heart attack is also caused by a spasm of the coronary artery which closes the flow of blood to the heart muscle. A life-destructive spasm can come up when tobacco and illegal drugs such as cocaine are inhaled.

Related: Arthritis – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Risk Factors

The unwanted buildup of atherosclerosis (fatty deposits) which narrows arteries throughout the entire body is assisted by certain factors. You can eliminate or improve these risk factors to prevent yourself from getting a heart attack. The risk factors include:

  • Obesity: Obesity is connected to high triglyceride levels, diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels. Consider losing at least ten percent of your body weight which will greatly lower the risk of a heart attack.
  • Age: Older men from age 46+ and women age 56+ have high chances of having a heart attack than younger men and women.
  • High Blood Pressure: Arteries that feeds the heart can get damaged by high blood pressure. The risk of heart attack is high when high blood pressure is connected to conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity.
  • Tobacco: Tobacco smokers are liable to have a heart attack
  • Family: If there’s a case of an early heart attack in your family history, you (at age 55 for men and age 65 for women) might be at high risk.
  • Diabetes: The risk of heart attack is increased when there’s not enough production of hormone secreted by your pancreas (insulin) or improper response to insulin causes a rise in the blood sugar of the body.
  • High Blood Cholesterol (or Triglyceride Levels): A high level of bad cholesterol, Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) may narrow arteries. High level of triglycerides- a blood fat related to your diet can also increase your risk of a heart attack. Moreso, a high level of good cholesterol, High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) lowers your risk of a heart attack.
  • Stress: Stress in some ways can also expose you to heart attack
  • Illegal Drug Use: Using tonic drugs like amphetamines or cocaine can set off a spasm of your coronary arteries which can result in a heart attack.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: This syndrome occurs when you have high blood sugar, high blood pressure, or obesity. So, the presence of metabolic syndrome will make you to likely develop heart disease.
  • Lack of Exercise: Inactivity of the body plays a major role in increasing blood cholesterol levels and obesity. Regular exercise results in better cardiovascular fitness, which includes lowering high blood pressure.
  • Autoimmune Condition: The risk of heart attack is increased when you have a condition such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.


The damages done to your heart can lead to:

  • Heart Failure: When the heart tissue undergoes serious damage by the attack, the remaining heart muscles won’t be able to pump enough blood from your heart. Failure of the heart can either be a temporary or chronic condition that occurs from extensive and permanent damage to your heart.
  • Cardiac Arrest: This is a sudden cardiac arrest that occurs without prior warning. An electrical disturbance that causes arrhythmia suddenly stops the heart. The risk of sudden cardiac arrest is increased by a heart attack, not treating it immediately can lead to a more serious case.
  • Abnormal Heart Rhythms: This is serious or fatal abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) that are developed by electrical “short circuits”.


Whether you’re a heart attack patient or not, it’s never too late to prevent it. See preventive measures below

  • Medications: The risk of a subsequent heart attack can be reduced by the regular taking of medications. Medications can also help your damaged heart function properly. Take your prescriptions accordingly and allow your doctor to monitor your health.
  • Lifestyle Factors: The drill is to maintain a healthy weight, healthy diet, manage stress, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, control cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • Diagnosis
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): Only a doctor can tell if you have a heart attack after a physical examination and a review of your medical history has been performed. Your doctor likely conducts an electrocardiogram (ECG) to monitor the electrical activity of your heart. 
  • Blood Test: Doctors should also take a sample of the patient’s blood to perform other tests to confirm the presence of heart muscles’ damage.

Test & Treatment

Depending on the cause, a series of tests and treatments will be conducted when a doctor diagnoses a heart attack. Your doctor may order a probe that’s inserted into the human blood vessel through a soft flexible tube called a catheter. It makes it possible for a doctor to view areas where there’s built up of plaque. The catheter can also be used to inject dye into your arteries to take an X-ray to see blood flow and to see if there are blockages. 

Your doctor may recommend a procedure if you’ve had a heart attack. The procedure may be surgery or nonsurgical to help relieve pain and to prevent the reoccurrence of another heart attack. Common procedures are:

  • Pacemaker: This is a device implanted under the skin. It’s solely designed to maintain the normal rhythm of the heart.
  • Heart Transplant: When the heart has caused permanent tissue death in most areas of the heart, then a transplant is performed in such severe conditions.
  • Angioplasty: Angioplasty opens a blocked artery with the aid of a balloon or by the removal of plaque buildup.
  • Stent: This is a wire mesh tube inserted into the artery to keep it open after angioplasty.
  • Heart Bypass Surgery: Reroute of the blood around the blockage take place in bypass surgery.
  • Heart Valve Surgery: There’s a replacement for your leakage valves to help the heart pump in the valve replacement surgery.

Other medications that may be prescribed by your doctor include:

  • Nitroglycerin
  • Aspirin
  • Painkillers
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Antiplatelet and anticoagulants – also called blood thinners
  • Clots breaking drugs


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