Medical term for a heart attack
The medical term for a heart attack is a Myocardial infarction (MI, or AMI for acute myocardial infarction),
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart tissue, or myocardium, is interrupted by a mechanical blood flow problem.
The most common cause of a heart attack is because of a blockage, also known as an occlusion, of a coronary artery following the detachment of a piece of fatty plaque from within the artery wall.
In medical terms this is known as the rupture of a atherosclerotic plaque, containing unstable lipids (which are particles related to cholesterol) and white blood cells (especially macrophages) which are normally contained within the inner wall of an artery.
The resulting reduction in the incoming supply of blood to the heart (also known as Ischemia) and oxygen shortage, can cause damage or terminal damage to the heart tissues, which is known as an infarction. This is shown in the graphic below. The problem is greatly increased if treatment is not provided urgently.
Symptoms of a heart attackhe classic symptoms of a heart attack or myocardial infarction include some or all of the following :-
- sudden chest pain
- pain radiating to the left arm or left side of the neck
- shortage of breath
- heart palpitations
- anxiety or a feeling of dread
Women and Heart Attacks
When a woman suffers a heart attack, she may experience fewer symptoms than a man. The most commonly experienced symptoms of a female heart attack are shortness of breath, weakness, and a feeling of indigestion, and fatigue.
The silent Heart Attack
Approximately one quarter of all myocardial infarctions are silent, without chest pain or other symptoms. This makes them very difficult to identify, and often the sufferer may only be diagnosed after an emergency callout for a paramedic, or admission to the ER room of a hospital.
Heart attack is the most common form of death worldwide
Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for both men and women all over the world. There are many risk factors to be considered, of which the most important are listed in the following bullets :-
- Cardiovascular disease
- Previous history of heart attack or stroke
- Older age (especially men over 40 and women over 50)
- Cigarette or tobacco smoking
- High blood levels of certain lipids (triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol”) and low levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL, “good cholesterol”)
- High blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Heart failure
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Drug abuse – especially cocaine
- Stress, especially chronically high levels
Immediate treatment for a heart attack
A heart attack is a medical emergency, and people experiencing chest pain are advised to alert the emergency medical services, because prompt treatment is essential.
Immediate treatment for suspected acute myocardial infarction includes oxygen, aspirin, and nitroglycerin. Pain relief is also often given, usually in the form of morphine sulfate.
Follow up treatment for a heart attack
The heart attack patient will receive a number of diagnostic tests, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG), a chest X-ray and blood tests. Under the guidance of a heart specialist or surgeon, further treatment may be administered using specialist heart drugs or possibly surgical intervention.
Confusion between heart attack and sudden cardiac death
The phrase “heart attack” is sometimes used incorrectly to describe sudden cardiac death, which may or may not be the result of an acute myocardial infarction. A heart attack is different from, but can be the cause of cardiac arrest, which is the stopping of the heartbeat, and cardiac arrhythmia, an abnormal heartbeat. It is also distinct from heart failure, in which the pumping action of the heart is impaired; severe myocardial infarction may lead to heart failure, but not necessarily.