Chest Pain / Heart Attack Symptoms

Chest Pain / Heart Attack Symptoms

What is a heart attack (myocardial infarction)?

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when one or more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged lack of oxygen caused by blocked blood flow to the heart muscle.

The blockage is often a result of atherosclerosis—a buildup of plaque composed of fat deposits, cholesterol, and other substances. Plaque ruptures and eventually a blood clot forms. The actual cause of a heart attack is a blood clot that forms within the plaque-obstructed area.

If the blood and oxygen supply is cut off severely or for a long period of time, muscle cells of the heart suffer damage and die. The result is dysfunction of the muscle of the heart in the area affected by the lack of oxygen.

What are the risk factors for heart attack?

There are two types of risk factors for heart attack, including the following:

Inherited (or genetic)Acquired
Inherited or genetic risk factors are risk factors you are born with that cannot be changed, but can be improved with medical management and lifestyle changes. Acquired risk factors are caused by activities that we choose to include in our lives that can be managed through lifestyle changes and clinical care.

Inherited (genetic) factors: Who is most at risk?

Acquired risk factors: Who is most at risk?

A heart attack can happen to anyone—it is only when we take the time to learn which of the risk factors apply to us, specifically, can we then take steps to eliminate or reduce them.

Managing heart attack risk factors

Managing your risks for a heart attack begins with:

What are the warning signs of a heart attack?

The following are the most common symptoms of a heart attack. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

Indigestion

Indigestion, also known as upset stomach or dyspepsia, is a painful or burning feeling in the upper abdomen that may be accompanied by nausea; abdominal bloating; belching; vomiting; severe pain in the upper right abdomen; discomfort unrelated to eating; or indigestion accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating, or pain radiating to the jaw, neck, or arm.

The symptoms of indigestion may resemble other medical conditions, such as chest pain. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Although chest pain is the key warning sign of a heart attack, it may be confused with indigestion, pleurisy, pneumonia, or other disorders.

The symptoms of a heart attack may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Responding to heart attack warning signs

If you or someone you know exhibits any of the above warning signs, act immediately. Call 911, or your local emergency number.

Treatment for a heart attack

The goal of treatment for a heart attack is to relieve pain, preserve the heart muscle function, and prevent death.

Treatment in the emergency department may include:

Picture of an emergency room sign at the hospital

Once the condition has been diagnosed and the patient stabilized, additional procedures to restore coronary blood flow may be utilized. Those procedures include:

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Non-Traumatic Emergencies

 

Top of Page return to top of page