A heart attack happens when there is a loss of blood supply to part of the heart muscle. It often results from a blockage in a nearby artery.
A person who is experiencing a heart attack — or myocardial infarction — will feel pain in their chest and other parts of their body, as well as other symptoms.
Spotting the early signs of a heart attack and getting prompt treatment is crucial and can save a person’s life.
This article looks at how heart attacks happen and how to treat and prevent them.
Symptoms of heart attack
- a feeling of pressure, tightness, pain, squeezing, or aching in the chest
- pain that spreads to the arms, neck, jaw, or back
- a feeling of crushing or heaviness in the chest
- a feeling similar to heartburn or indigestion
- nausea and sometimes vomiting
- feeling clammy and sweaty
- shortness of breath
- feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- in some cases, anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack
- coughing or wheezing, if fluid builds up in the lungs
The symptoms can vary in their order and duration — they may last several days or come and go suddenly.
The following may also develop:
- Hypoxemia: This involves low levels of oxygen in the blood.
If the person stops breathing,
Do manual chest compressions:
- Lock your fingers together and place the base of your hands in the center of the chest.
- Position your shoulders over your hands, lock your elbows, and press hard and fast, at a rate of 100–120 compressions per minute. Press to a depth of 2 inches.
- Continue these movements until the person starts to breathe or move, until someone else can take over, or until you are exhausted.
- If possible, take turns without pausing the compressions.
Use an automatic external defibrillator (AED)
- AEDs are available in shopping malls and many other public places.
- An AED provides a shock that may restart the heart.
- Remain calm and follow the instructions. Most newer AEDs talk you through the steps.
When the emergency team arrives, they will take over the person’s care.
Give the team as much detail as possible about the person’s health and what was happening before the event.
The team will try to stabilize the person’s condition, including providing oxygen.
Many approaches can help, but three common options are:
- medications, including those to dissolve blood clots
- percutaneous coronary intervention, a mechanical method of restoring blood flow to any damaged tissue
- coronary artery bypass grafting, commonly called a heart bypass, diverts blood around damaged areas of the arteries to improve blood flow
The healthcare team will also work with the individual to develop a treatment plan designed to
In the hospital, a doctor will ask about symptoms. When making a diagnosis and drawing up a treatment strategy, they will take into account the person’s:
- overall health
- medical history
- family history