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Heart Attack Information

What is a heart attack?
A heart attack (also known as a myocardial infarction) is the death of heart muscle from the sudden blockage of a coronary artery by a blood clot. Coronary arteries are blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood and oxygen. Blockage of a coronary artery deprives the heart muscle of blood and oxygen, causing injury to the heart muscle. Injury to the heart muscle causes chest pain and pressure. If blood flow is not restored within 20 to 40 minutes, irreversible death of the heart muscle will start to occur. That muscle continues to die for six to eight hours, at this point the heart attack over. Scar tissue will eventually replace the dead heart muscle.

Almost 1 million Americans will suffer a heart attack each year.
400,000 of them die as a result of their heart attack.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

    Although chest pain or pressure is the most common symptom of a heart attack, heart attack victims may experience a diversity of symptoms that include:
     
  • Pain, fullness, and/or squeezing sensation of the chest
  • Jaw pain, toothache, headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or general epigastric (upper middle abdomen) discomfort
  • Sweating
  • Heartburn and/or indigestion
  • Arm pain (more commonly the left arm, but may be either arm)
  • Upper back pain
  • General malaise (vague feeling of illness)
  • No symptoms (25% of all heart attacks are silent, no chest pain or new symptoms. Silent heart attacks are especially common among patients with diabetes mellitus)


Cardiac Arrest
Cardiac arrest strikes immediately and without warning. Here are the signs to watch for

  • Sudden loss of responsiveness. No response to gentle shaking.
  • No normal breathing. The victim does not take a normal breath when you check for several seconds.
  • No signs of circulation. No movement or coughing.

  • If cardiac arrest occurs, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR immediately. If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available and someone trained to use it is nearby, involve them.

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