Heart Attack

The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood to the body at an average of 72 times per minute. The coronary arteries are responsible for supplying oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. A temporary decrease in blood supply can cause the muscle to be "starved" for oxygen and result in chest discomfort or angina. A prolonged total loss of blood supply can cause irreversible damage to the heart muscle and produce a heart attack.

The majority of heart attacks occur when a blockage plaque "ruptures" or develops a crack on the inner aspect of the blood vessel. Clot develops at this site and then grows to completely block the channel of the artery. This cuts off blood supply to the heart muscle supplied by that artery and results in a heart attack.

Classic or common signs of a heart attack include pressure-like, squeezing, or tightness sensation in the center of the chest that may radiate or move to the left shoulder and arm. In some, it may move to shoulders and arms, the jaw, or between the shoulder blades in the back. If this is merely an angina warning, the symptom may go away in a few minutes and then return.

Once a coronary artery is totally blocked, a heart attack takes place and the chest discomfort becomes more intense and persistent. The chest discomfort or pain may be accompanied by shortness of breath, unexplained anxiety (a sense of impending doom), weakness, marked fatigue, cold sweats, paleness and a feeling of skipped heartbeats. It must be recognized that only one or some of these symptoms may accompany the chest discomfort of heart attack. Also, the symptoms may not be typical in some cases and shortness of breath, cold sweats or marked and sudden fatigue may be the only symptom.