Everyone has heard of a heart attack, but what exactly is it? Let’s take a look at your heart and an provide an explanation for what happens during a heart attack. Heart attacks are an important medical topic, as they are the leading cause of death for both men and women.
Your heart is a muscle which acts as a pump. It has the primary function of pushing blood around your body. It does this by contracting (beating) in rhythm, every minute of every day of your life. In order for this to happen, the heart requires a constant supply of oxygenated blood.
In medical terms, a heart attack is referred to as a myocardial infarction. “Myocardial” is a latin word which means “heart muscle”. An infarction is a process whereby a tissue, in this case the heart, does not get an adequate blood supply to live. Infarctions can be caused by many things, but the most common in the heart is a cholesterol plaque which lodges in the arteries of the heart and prevents blood from reaching the tissues of the heart muscle. This process is known as atherosclerosis.
Because your heart beats constantly, it requires a great deal of energy to function properly. This energy is created by a complex series of chemical reactions, all of which require oxygen. When the blood supply is cut off, there is not enough oxygen for the heart tissues to create the engergy needed to continue pumping.
When this happens, the tissues of the heart will die off. That part of the pump then stops pumping. This failure of the heart is commonly known as a heart attack.
The heart is fed oxygen by a series of arteries called the coronary arteries. These arteries have different names based on where they are on the heart. When one of these arteries is blocked by an atherosclerotic plaque, it can cause a heart attack.
Heart attacks are almost always accompanied by severe symptoms. People suffering a heart attack will feel extreme chest pain. They will become short of breath. In addition, nausea, vomiting, sweating, anxiety, and weakness of the entire body are quite common in someone having a myocardial infarction.
Treatment for a heart attack involves opening the artery which is blocked and reestablishing the blood supply. This can be done with a combination of medications and more invasive proceedures. The details of treatments for heart attacks are quite complicated and are outside the scope of this article.
This article is only meant to be a very basic definition of what a heart attack is. There are many elements of a heart attack which require further reading and research, such as risk factors, detailed treatments, prevention, and long term effects.