Heart Attack Information
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack (also known
as a myocardial infarction) is the death of heart muscle from the sudden
blockage of a coronary artery by a blood clot. Coronary arteries are blood
vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood and oxygen. Blockage of
a coronary artery deprives the heart muscle of blood and oxygen, causing
injury to the heart muscle. Injury to the heart muscle causes chest pain
and pressure. If blood flow is not restored within 20 to 40 minutes, irreversible
death of the heart muscle will start to occur. That muscle continues to
die for six to eight hours, at this point the heart attack over. Scar tissue
will eventually replace the dead heart muscle.
Almost 1 million Americans
will suffer a heart attack each year.
400,000 of them die as a result of their heart attack.
What are the symptoms
of a heart attack?
Although chest pain or pressure
is the most common symptom of a heart attack, heart attack victims may
experience a diversity of symptoms that include:
Pain, fullness, and/or squeezing
sensation of the chest
Jaw pain, toothache, headache
Shortness of breath
Nausea, vomiting, and/or general
epigastric (upper middle abdomen) discomfort
Heartburn and/or indigestion
Arm pain (more commonly the
left arm, but may be either arm)
Upper back pain
General malaise (vague feeling
No symptoms (25% of all heart
attacks are silent, no chest pain or new symptoms. Silent heart attacks
are especially common among patients with diabetes mellitus)
Cardiac arrest strikes immediately
and without warning. Here are the signs to watch for
Sudden loss of responsiveness.
No response to gentle shaking.
No normal breathing. The victim
does not take a normal breath when you check for several seconds.
No signs of circulation. No
movement or coughing.
If cardiac arrest occurs,
call 9-1-1 and begin CPR immediately. If an automated external defibrillator
(AED) is available and someone trained to use it is nearby, involve them.
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