During a heart attack, the blood supply that normally nourishes the heart with oxygen is cut off and the heart muscle begins to die. The blockage is most often a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances, which form a plaque in the arteries that feed the heart. Not all heart problems come with clear warning signs. Some heart symptoms don’t even happen in your chest, and it’s not always easy to tell what’s going on.
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
Some symptoms that many people report are:
- Chest pain
- Upper body pain
- Trouble breathing
Even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn’t get help right away.
Causes of Heart Attack:
- One of the most common causes is plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis) that prevents blood from getting to the heart muscle. Over time, a coronary artery can narrow from the buildup of various substances, including cholesterol (atherosclerosis). This condition, known as coronary artery disease, causes most heart attacks.
- Heart attacks can also be caused by blood clots or a torn blood vessel. A blood clot forms at the site of the rupture. If large enough, the clot can block the flow of blood through the coronary artery, starving the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients (ischemia).
Heart attack risk factors include:
Age: Men age 45 or older and women age 55 or older are more likely to have a heart attack than are younger men and women.
Family history: If you have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes, you’re more at risk.
High blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels: A high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) is most likely to narrow arteries. A high level of triglycerides, a type of blood fat related to your diet, also ups your risk of heart attack.
Stress: You might respond to stress in ways that can increase your risk of a heart attack.
Obesity: Obesity is associated with high blood cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Diabetes: Not producing enough of a hormone secreted by your pancreas (insulin) or not responding to insulin properly causes your body’s blood sugar levels to rise, increasing your risk of heart attack.
Lack of physical activity: People who exercise regularly have better cardiovascular fitness, including lower high blood pressure.
High blood pressure: Over time, high blood pressure can damage arteries that feed your heart. High blood pressure that occurs with other conditions, such as obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes, increases your risk even more.
- Heart disease is preventable. Here are some tips to follow
- Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn your personal risk for heart disease.
- Medications: Taking medications can reduce your risk of a subsequent heart attack and help your damaged heart function better.
- Quit smoking: One year after you quit, you’ll cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent.
- Start an exercise program. Just walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Lifestyle factors: Maintain a healthy weight with a heart-health, exercise regularly, manage stress and control conditions that can lead to heart attack.