What is Heart Attack?
Myocardial Infarction (MI) or Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI), commonly known as a heart attack, is the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing some heart cells to die. This is most commonly due to occlusion (blockage) of a coronary artery following the rupture of a vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque, which is an unstable collection of lipids (like cholesterol) and white blood cells (especially macrophages) in the wall of an artery. The resulting ischemia (restriction in blood supply) and oxygen shortage, if left untreated for a sufficient period of time, can cause damage or death (infarction) of heart muscle tissue (myocardium).
Classical symptoms of acute myocardial infarction include sudden chest pain (typically radiating to the left arm or left side of the neck), shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, sweating, and anxiety (often described as a sense of impending doom). Women may experience fewer typical symptoms than men, most commonly shortness of breath, weakness, a feeling of indigestion, and fatigue. Approximately one quarter of all myocardial infarctions are silent, without chest pain or other symptoms. A heart attack is a medical emergency, and people experiencing chest pain are advised to alert their emergency medical services because prompt protection with an external defibrillator can save your life from primary ventricular fibrillation which occurs unexpectedly in 10% of all myocardial infarctions especially during the first hours of symptoms.
Heart attacks are the leading cause of death for both men and women all over the world. Important risk factors are previous cardiovascular disease (such as angina, a previous heart attack or stroke), older age (especially men over 40 and women over 50), 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"), diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, excessive alcohol consumption, the abuse of certain drugs (such as cocaine and methamphetamine), and chronic high stress levels.