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What is Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)?

Heart Attack

A heart attack also called myocardial infarction is a phrase that instil fear in the hearts of many.  If you’ve ever wondered what is ‘myocardial infarction’ and how it happens? In this article, we’ll dwell deeper into the details of this deadly phenomenon.

A heart attack or myocardial infarction, is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to the heart is suddenly interrupted. This can happen when a blood clot blocks a coronary artery, which is a blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart muscle. 

Without oxygen, the heart muscle begins to die.

The primary indication of a myocardial infarction frequently manifests as discomfort or pain in the chest. This sensation can be characterised as a tight squeeze, pressure, or a sense of fullness in the chest region. Additionally, the pain may extend to the upper part of the body from the jaw to shoulder. Further symptoms that may accompany a heart attack encompass difficulty in breathing, feelings of nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and episodes of fainting.

What does a Myocardial Infarction feel like?

The symptoms of a heart attack or myocardial infarction can vary from person to person. Some people may experience only mild symptoms, while others may experience severe symptoms. The symptoms may also come and go. 

The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. This distressing sensation within the chest can manifest as a squeezing, pressing, or overwhelming sensation of fullness. It may also feel like a pain in different parts of the body such as the jaw, neck, back, arm, or shoulder. It can combine with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, cold sweat and fainting. 

If anyone is experiencing these symptoms it is vital to seek medical attention immediately. A myocardial infarction is a medical emergency, and early treatment is essential to prevent serious damage to the heart muscle.

What are the Causes of Heart Attack?

A myocardial infarction ensues when a section of the heart muscle experiences a blockage in its blood supply, leading to a deprivation of oxygen. This lack of oxygen causes the heart muscle to undergo irreversible damage.

The most prevalent cause of heart attacks is coronary artery disease (CAD), a condition characterised by the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries that deliver blood to the heart. This blockage is primarily caused by the accumulation of fatty deposits known as plaque, through a gradual process termed atherosclerosis.

In the event of plaque rupture, the formation of a blood clot can be triggered. This clot has the potential to obstruct the coronary artery, subsequently depriving the heart muscle of oxygen and triggering a heart attack.

Furthermore, other causes of myocardial infarction include:

  • High blood pressure: Elevated blood pressure can lead to artery damage, increasing the likelihood of narrowing or blockage.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can inflict damage upon the arteries, impeding smooth blood flow.
  • High cholesterol: Excessive levels of cholesterol promote the accumulation of plaque within the arteries.
  • Obesity: Obesity contributes to a greater accumulation of plaque within the arteries and hinders optimal blood circulation.
  • Family history: Individuals with a family history of heart disease face an increased risk of developing the condition themselves.
  • Smoking: The act of smoking damages the arteries and heightens the risk of blood clots.

What are the Symptoms of Heart Attack?

Myocardial infarction symptoms can vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain or Angina: This is the most common symptom of a heart attack. The chest pain may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. It may also feel like heartburn or indigestion. The pain may be mild or severe, and it may come and go.
  • Shortness of breath: This is another common symptom of a heart attack. The shortness of breath may be worse with exertion, but it can also occur at rest.
  • Pain or discomfort in parts of the body: The pain or discomfort of a heart attack may spread to the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back.
  • Other symptoms: Other symptoms of a heart attack may include nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, dizziness, sweating, and fainting.

Who is at risk for a heart attack?

While anyone can be at risk for heart attack, certain factors increase the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack, including:

  • Age: Men aged 45 and above, as well as women aged 55 and above, face a higher likelihood of experiencing a heart attack compared to younger individuals.
  • High blood pressure: Over time, elevated blood pressure can inflict damage upon the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
  • Tobacco use: Engaging in smoking or enduring prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke escalates the risk of a heart attack.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can impair the arteries and impede blood flow to the heart.
  • High cholesterol: Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly known as “bad” cholesterol, significantly contribute to artery narrowing. Similarly, increased levels of certain blood fats called triglycerides also heighten the risk of a heart attack.
  • Family history: Individuals with a family history of heart disease face an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack.
  • Obesity: Carrying excess weight places additional strain on the heart and amplifies the risk of a heart attack.
  • Stress: Heightened stress levels can lead to increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thus elevating the risk of a heart attack.
  • Certain medications: Certain medications, such as oral steroids, can contribute to an increased risk of a heart attack.

If any of these risk factors apply to you, it is crucial to consult with your doctor regarding strategies to mitigate your risk of a heart attack. Numerous measures can be taken to lower your risk, including stopping smoking, quitting alcohol, adopting a healthy diet, regular exercise, and appropriate medication usage if necessary.

Treatment for a Heart Attack

A myocardial infarction needs immediate medical intervention as it is a critical emergency. The objective of treatment is to reinstate blood flow to the heart muscle and prevent further damage.

The specific course of treatment depends on the severity of the heart attack and the individual’s heart health which can be determined through a heart MRI or an echocardiogram

Common treatment options for a heart attack encompass:

  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG): Surgical intervention that involves grafting a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body to bypass a narrowed or blocked coronary artery.
  • Clot-busting drugs: Medications designed to dissolve existing blood clots.
  • Angioplasty: A procedure involving the insertion of a catheter with a balloon tip into a narrowed or blocked artery. The balloon is then inflated to widen the artery.
  • Aspirin: Administered to inhibit the formation of blood clots that could impede blood flow to the heart.
  • Stent placement: Implanting a small mesh tube known as a stent within an artery to uphold its openness.

Along with medical treatment, lifestyle modifications may be necessary to minimise the risk of future heart attacks and also heart attack prevention. These changes involve:

  • Engaging in regular exercise
  • Adopting a nutritious diet
  • Restrict smoking and alcohol intake
  • Effective stress management

In a Nutshell

While a heart attack may seem scary, it is essential to remember that it is treatable if addressed in a timely manner. To connect with a qualified physician who can provide the necessary care and guidance, you can visit our Find a Physician webpage. By utilising this invaluable resource you can take proactive steps to empower your heart health. 

This platform hosts a comprehensive directory of highly skilled healthcare professionals specialising in cardiovascular health, ensuring that you have access to experienced experts who can provide the care and support you need. Your heart’s well-being deserves nothing less than the best care available!


1. What is the main cause of myocardial infarction?

Myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, is primarily caused by a blockage in the coronary arteries. This blockage occurs when fatty deposits called plaque build up over time, narrowing the arteries and impeding the flow of blood to the heart.

2. What are the four signs of myocardial infarction?

The four typical signs of myocardial infarction, or heart attack, are:

a) Chest pain or discomfort: This pain is often described as a squeezing, pressure, or fullness in the chest, and it may radiate to the jaw, neck, back, arm, or shoulder.

b) Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing or feeling breathless, especially during physical exertion or at rest, can be a sign of a heart attack.

c) Nausea and vomiting: Some individuals may experience feelings of nausea or vomiting during a heart attack.

d) Sweating and lightheadedness: Profuse sweating, along with dizziness or lightheadedness, can occur during a heart attack.

It is important to note that these symptoms can vary from person to person, and some individuals, particularly women, may experience atypical symptoms such as jaw pain, fatigue, or indigestion.

3. What is the early stage of myocardial infarction?

The acute phase of myocardial infarction, or heart attack, is the first stage. This phase occurs when the blood supply to a portion of the heart muscle is suddenly cut off, resulting in a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Because of the absence of blood supply, the heart muscle begins to deteriorate at this point. At this point, immediate medical intervention is required to restore blood flow and avoid further damage to the heart muscle.

4. How long will it take to recover from my heart attack?

The recovery time after a heart attack varies from person to person and depends on various factors, including the severity of the heart attack, overall health condition, and individual response to treatment. Generally, it takes several weeks to a few months for the heart muscle to heal and for individuals to regain their strength. However, long-term lifestyle changes, including a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, medications, and ongoing medical care, are usually necessary to prevent future heart problems and promote overall cardiovascular health.

5. What are different medical terms for a heart attack?

A heart attack is medically known as a myocardial infarction (MI) or acute myocardial infarction (AMI). These terms are used to describe the same condition where the blood supply to a part of the heart muscle is blocked, leading to tissue damage.


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