A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. This causes damage to the heart muscle and can lead to serious complications, including death.
The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort, which may spread to the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats.
The most common cause of a heart attack is a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries, which can lead to a blockage. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque can harden and narrow the arteries, reducing the amount of blood that can flow to the heart. Other causes of a heart attack include a tear in the artery wall, a spasm of the artery, or a blood clot.
Risk factors for heart attack include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. People with a family history of heart attacks are also at increased risk. Treatment for a heart attack typically involves medications such as aspirin, nitroglycerin, and clot-busting drugs. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to open blocked arteries. In addition, lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly, can help reduce the risk of future heart attacks.