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Heart Attack

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack or myocardial infarction is a medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly and severely reduced or cut off, causing the muscle to die from lack of oxygen.


Common heart attack symptoms include:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain

Causes and Risk Factors

Certain factors contribute to the unwanted buildup of fatty deposits that narrows arteries throughout your body, including arteries to your heart. You can improve or eliminate many of these risk factors to reduce your chances of having a first or subsequent heart attack by controlling these following risk factors:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Illegal drug use, such as, cocaine
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Stress


The diagnosis of a heart attack is based on symptoms, diagnostic tests, including labs.

  • Blood test
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Echocardiography (ECHO)
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)


Treatment may include medications, coronary interventions or surgery.

  • Angioplasty and stents
  • Bypass surgery
  • Medical therapy


It's never too late to take steps to prevent a heart attack—even if you've already had one. Taking medications can reduce your risk of a heart attack and help your heart function better. Lifestyle factors also play a critical role in heart attack prevention and recovery. Heart-healthy lifestyle habits include:

  • Controlling certain conditions, like, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
  • Eating healthy food
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Not smoking
  • Reducing and managing stress
  • Staying physically active