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Heart Attack: Symptoms, Diagnosis and

Heart attack is the death of a segment of heart muscle caused by the loss of
blood supply.
The blood supply is usually lost because a coronary artery, one that supplies blood to
the heart muscle, has a blood clot, a blockage (coronary thrombosis). If some of the
heart muscle dies, the patient experiences chest pain and electrical instability of the
heart muscle tissue.
Other terms used for a heart attack include myocardial infarction, cardiac
infarction and coronary thrombosis (Infarction = the process whereby an area of dead
tissue is caused by a loss of blood supply).
Blood supply to the heart can also be undermined if the artery suddenly narrows, as in a
According to the American Heart Association:
The animation above shows how plaque buildup, or a coronary artery spasm, can
eventually lead to a heart attack, and how a heart attack can occur when blood flow in a
coronary artery is blocked.

During a heart attack the heart muscle that loses its blood supply starts to suffer

How much damage occurs depends on the size of the area that is supplied by the
blocked artery, as well as the lapse in time between injury and treatment.

The damaged heart muscle heals by forming scar tissue. The healing process may
take several weeks.

Despite severe injury to a part of the heart, the rest of the organ carries on working.

However, as part of the heart has been damaged, it will probably be weaker and will
not pump as much blood as it used to.

With the right treatment and lifestyle changes, further damage can be prevented or

Symptoms of a heart attack

The following are signs and symptoms for diagnosing a heart attack:

Chest discomfort, mild pain - a study published in JAMA Internal Medicinereported

that one fifth of younger women having a heart attack experience no chest pain.
The researchers defined younger women as those aged up to 55 years.



Crushing chest pain (see comment above on "mild pain").


Dyspnea (shortness of breath).

Face seems gray.

A feeling of terror that your life is coming to its end.

Feeling really awful (general feeling).


The patient is clammy and sweaty.

If you experience these symptoms, or witness another person with them, call the
emergency services immediately. In the United Kingdom the telephone number is 999,
in the USA and Canada it is 911, Australia 000, and New Zealand 111.
When somebody has a heart attack, they usually feel pain in their chest first. The pain
then spreads to the neck, jaw, ears, arms, and wrists. The pain may also make its way
into the shoulder blades, the back, and the abdomen.

Changing position, resting or lying down does not alleviate the pain.
It is typically a constant pain, but it may sometimes come and go. Patients describe the
pain as one of pressure, like a clamp squeezing inside your chest. The pain can last
from a few minutes to many hours.

Silent heart attack

People with diabetes, and/or those over the age of 75 may experience a "silent heart
attack", one with no pain at all.Painless heart attacks are more common among
women than men.
Studies indicate that about 1 in every 5 mild heart attacks are not diagnosed. If this is
the case, there are many people who are suffering progressive heart muscle damage
because it is not being treated.

Heart attack warning signs in women