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What is a Myocardial Infarction?

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  • Written By: Nicole Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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A myocardial infarction is a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when a coronary artery becomes blocked. The symptoms of a myocardial infarction include chest pain, shortness of breath, and a host of other physical signs. Seeking immediate treatment can improve the chance of survival.

Interruption in the blood supply to the heart causes myocardial infarction. There are several reasons that this can occur. Atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup, is one possibility. Other possibilities include the presence of a blood clot or a spasm of a coronary artery. Spasms are often seen with drug use, such as cocaine, and are a rare cause of heart attacks.

There are many possible symptoms of myocardial infarction. Squeezing pain in the chest, pain extending to the shoulder or jaw, and shortness of breath are just a few. Other symptoms include nausea, sweating, and a feeling of impending doom.

Women may experience additional symptoms. This can include abdominal pain, clammy skin, and dizziness. In addition, women may notice sudden or unusual fatigue.

Several risk factors can increase a person’s risk of having a myocardial infarction. Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 have a higher risk of heart attack. Those with a family history of heart attacks also have a higher risk of experience a myocardial infarction.

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Lifestyle choices also contribute to the likelihood of experiencing a heart attack. Smoking can damage the arteries leading to the heart and increase the risk of blood clots. Obesity, lack of physical activity, and high stress levels also increase a person’s risk of experiencing a heart attack. Other risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.

Someone who is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack needs immediate medical attention. Call for emergency help. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), when given by a trained professional or bystander following directions from emergency personnel, can help keep oxygen flowing to the body and brain while waiting for emergency help.

Depending on the severity of the heart attack, treatment may vary. Medications such as aspirin, blood-thinners, nitroglycerin, and pain relievers may be prescribed by a physician to help manage symptoms and prevent further damage. In severe cases, surgery such as angioplasty or bypass surgery may be performed to open up or bypass blocked arteries.

Proper lifestyle adjustments can help prevent or reduce the chances of myocardial infarction. This includes following a healthy diet and participating in a regular exercise regimen. Reducing stress and not smoking are a few of the other changes recommended to help prevent a heart attack from occurring or reoccurring.

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