Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction) – Symptoms and Causes

A heart attack or myocardial infarction occurs as a result of obstruction of the arteries that supply blood to the heart tissue. As a result, the heart muscles begin to die because of oxygen and nutrient shortages. Heart attacks also called myocardial infarction are very frequent in the USA.

Some people with heart attacks have warning signs and others do not. Some of the symptoms most people report are:

A cardiac attack is a severe medical emergency. Look for immediate medical care if you or your known symptoms could be an indication of a heart attack.


Some heart problems may cause heart attacks. A common cause is plaque deposition in the arteries (atherosclerosis) that blocks it and stops the blood from reaching the heart muscle.

Heart attacks may also be the result of blood clots or a broken blood vessel. Less often, a heart attack is due to a spasm in the blood vessels.


Heart attack symptoms can include the following:

  • chest pain/discomfort.
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • fatigue
  • anxiety

There are a lot of symptoms that can happen during a heart attack, and the symptoms can vary between males and females.

Risk factors

Many factors are at the origin of the risk of heart attack. Certain factors remain unchanging, such as the age and history of the family. The other factors, referred to as modifiable risk factors, may change.

Risk factors not subject to change include:

  • Age. If you are older than 65, your risk of having a heart attack is greater.
  • Sex. Males are at higher risk than females.
  • Family history. If you have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, you are at higher risk.
  • Race. People of Africa are at greater risk.

Modifiable risk factors that may change include:

  • obesity
  • lack of activity.
  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • diet and drinking alcohol.
  • stress


A diagnosis of heart attack is made by a physician after performing a physical examination and reviewing your medical history. Your doctor will likely perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) to look at your heart’s electrical activity.

They should also take your blood sample or conduct further tests to see if there is an indication of damage to the heart muscle.

Tests and Treatment

If your doctor diagnoses a heart attack, different tests and treatments will be used, depending on the cause.

Your physician can arrange a heart catheterization. It is a probe that is inserted into your blood vessels through a thin flexible tubing called a catheter. It lets your doctor look at areas where the plaque may have formed. Your doctor may also inject dye into your arteries through this tube and take an X-ray to see blood flow motion, as well as see blockages.

If you have had a heart attack, your physician may recommend a procedure (surgical or non-surgical). Procedures can ease pain and help prevent a new heart attack.

Standard procedures include:

  • Angioplasty. Angioplasty opens the blockage of the artery either with a balloon or by removing the plaque deposit.
  • Stent. A stent is a wire mesh tube that is inserted into the obstructed artery to hold open after an angioplasty.
  • Heart bypass surgery. In bypass surgery, your physician does another root for the passage of blood around the obstruction.
  • Heart valve surgery. When you have valve replacement surgery, your defective valves are replaced to assist the heart pump.
  • Pacemaker. A pacemaker is a device placed under your skin. It’s designed to help your heart keep up with normal rhythm.
  • Heart transplant. A transplant is performed in severe cases where the heart attack has caused permanent and serious tissue injury to most of the heart.

Your doctor may also prescribe medicines for treating your heart attack, which include:

Doctors who treat heart attacks

  • painkillers
  • nitroglycerin
  • aspirin
  • ACE inhibitor and beta-blocker.
  • antiplatelet and anticoagulants, also known as anti-coagulants.
  • antianginals

As heart attacks are often unpredictable, they are usually treated first by an emergency room physician. Once the person is stable, they are transferred to a cardiac specialist.

Alternative treatments

Alternative therapies and healthy living can improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart attack. Healthy eating and lifestyle are key to keeping your heart healthy.


There are multiple complications associated with heart attacks. When a heart attack occurs, it can disturb your heart’s normal rhythm maybe stopping it completely. These irregular beats are known as arrhythmias.

When your heart stops receiving blood while having a heart attack, some tissues may die. It may weaken the heart and later cause unsafe conditions like heart failure.

Heart attacks may also affect your heart valves and cause them to leak away. If treatment is delayed, the damaged area of the heart will determine the long-term effects on the heart.


Although there are many risk factors that are out of your control, there are still a few key steps you can take to keep your heart healthy. Smoking is a major contributor to heart disease. Tobacco control can decrease the risk. Keeping a healthy diet, exercising regularly and limiting your alcohol consumption are other ways to reduce your risk.

If you have diabetes, make sure you take your medicine and check your blood glucose regularly. If you have a heart problem, check with your doctor and continue with your treatment. Talk to your physician if you have problems with your risk of heart attack.

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