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Heart attack

Heart attack: Introduction

Heart attack, also called myocardial infarction, is a very serious condition in which the heart is not receiving enough oxygen to function properly. Heart attack is a common cause of death. About one out of every six deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart attack.

The heart requires a steady supply of oxygen in order to pump blood effectively to all of the body. Oxygen is supplied to the heart in the blood that flows through the coronary arteries. If a coronary artery becomes blocked, the portion of the heart that gets its oxygen-rich blood from that specific artery becomes damaged. This injury can become permanent within minutes and result in the death of the affected heart tissue. Medically this is called myocardial necrosis or infarction.

Heart attacks often result from a build-up of plaque and inflammation in the arteries, called atherosclerosis. This process narrows the coronary arteries and lowers the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches the heart muscle. This is called angina. Arteries narrowed by atherosclerosis are more likely to develop a blood clot that completely blocks blood flow, resulting in a heart attack. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include having high cholesterol.

The extent of the damage done to the heart during a heart attack varies depending on such factors as the area or areas affected and how long the blockage lasts. Damaged heart tissue or muscle does not pump normally and can also trigger life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Cardiac arrhythmias are abnormal heart beats or heart rhythms that can make the heart completely ineffective in pumping blood and lead to cardiac arrest and death.

Other complications of heart attack include the development of embolism, stroke, and aneurysm of the heart. The classic symptom of heart attack is crushing chest pain, but not all people will experience chest pain. For more information on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of heart attack.

Risk factors for heart attack include a having hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Other risk factors include being of African-American ancestry, male, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, having a lot of long-term stress, smoking and having a family history of a heart attack at an early age.

Making a diagnosis of heart attack includes completing a complete medical evaluation and history and physical examination. This is often done in an emergency room. However, some heart attacks are "silent" and have minimal or no symptoms and may not be diagnosed until a person seeks medical care for another condition or for routine care.

Diagnostic testing includes an EKG, which takes a picture of the electrical activity of the heart and can reveal damage that is done to the heart due to a heart attack. This test, however, is not always conclusive. Blood cardiac enzyme tests and a troponin test are also performed to aid in diagnosis. Cardiac enzyme tests measures the amount of specific enzymes that are released into the blood from the heart as it is deprived of oxygen and being damaged. The troponin test measures the amounts of a certain proteins that are found in the blood as heart muscle is injured.

A chest X-ray is generally performed to see the size and shape of the heart and may reveal other conditions, such as congestive heart failure or pneumonia. Other tests may include an echocardiogram, which shows damage to the left side of the heart and a coronary angiogram, which reveals which coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked.

It is possible that a diagnosis of heart attack can be missed or delayed because sometimes the symptoms may be mild and attributed to other conditions. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of heart attack.

If caught early, some heart attacks can be successfully treated before the development of permanent heart damage and complications. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of heart attack. ...more »

Heart attack: Heart attacks or "acute myocardial infarction" (AMI), are very common and also very deadly. The underlying cause of a heart attack is usually "coronary thrombosis", which is a blockage of the blood vessels of the heart. When the heart actually stops in a heart attack, this is called "cardiac arrest". The most common symptom is chest pain or chest discomfort, but these may also be mild or even absent, and in many cases even the patient is uncertain if they are having a heart attack. If there is any doubt, seek immediate emergency medical help.

The classic fatal misdiagnosis of heart attack is a person believing that their chest pain is simply heartburn (i.e., reflux, indigestion, GERD, etc.), and failing to seek medical attention for what turns out to be a heart attack. Similarly, people can mistakenly believe they have angina, when it is actually a heart attack.

However, many cases of heart attack go undiagnosed even in the emergency department. This diagnostic error in the ER makes AMI the single largest malpractice litigation-related medical condition. Because the typical profile for AMI in older men (usually over 45), AMI is often underdiagnosed in women or younger adults. In any age patients, AMI can have a variety of presentations, and diagnostic tests such as an EKG may still be normal. Misdiagnoses of AMI include gastrointestinal disorders (26% of misdiagnoses), musculoskeletal pain (21%), or respiratory ailments such as pneumonia or bronchitis (6%).

Other the other hand, there are also less serious disorders that are mistakenly believed to be heart attack. A common example are people having a panic attack (anxiety attack) and will rush to emergency in the belief they are dying from a heart attack. There are many other causes of chest pain, many of them not as serious (e.g. heartburn, GERD, gastric reflux, etc.). Nevertheless, it is important not to take chances, and seek immediate emergency medical attention for chest pain, or any possible heart attack or similar symptoms. ...more »

Heart attack: Symptoms

Symptoms of a heart attack differ depending on the area or areas of the heart affected and individual factors. In some cases, some people may not have symptoms or symptoms may be very mild and only include weakness, fatigue, dizziness, backache and/or a feeling of indigestion.

Typically, many people who have a heart attack experience chest pain. The type of chest pain can vary ...more symptoms »

Heart attack: Treatments

The most effective heart attack treatment plan uses a multifaceted approach. This includes preventive care aimed at minimizing the risk factors for having a heart attack. Preventive measures include regular medical care to monitor and address such risk factors as high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, diabetes, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Heart ...more treatments »

Heart attack: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of heart attack may be overlooked or delayed because sometimes there are no symptoms or because some symptoms are mild in some people. Additionally, every person with a heart attack can experience different types and severity of symptoms, and not all people will have the crushing chest pain often associated with a heart attack. Some symptoms are vague and not ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Heart attack

Treatments for Heart attack

Home Diagnostic Testing

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Wrongly Diagnosed with Heart attack?

Heart attack: Related Patient Stories

Heart attack: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Heart attack.

Alternative Treatments for Heart attack

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Heart attack may include:

  • Arnica homeopathic remedy
  • Aconite homeopathic remedy
  • Latrodectus mactans homeopathic remedy
  • Arsenicum album homeopathic remedy
  • Antimonium tartaricum homeopathic remedy
  • more treatments »

Diagnostic Tests for Heart attack

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Heart attack: Complications

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Causes of Heart attack

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Disease Topics Related To Heart attack

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Heart attack:

Heart attack: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Heart attack

Heart attacks can be undiagnosed: Although the most severe symptoms of heart attack are hard to miss, there are varying degrees of severity. It is more »

Heart attacks can be overdiagnosed: Although many people die from heart attacks, there are also many cases where people fear that they have a heart attack, but actually have something milder. Some of more »

Rare heart condition often undiagnosed: The rare heart condition called long QT syndrome can lead to episodes of palpitations and rapid heartbeat. In rare cases, this undiagnosed condition can more »

Heart attack can be over-diagnosed: Although heart attack is often undiagnosed, leading to fatality, it can also be over-diagnosed. People become concerned that a condition is a heart attack, more »

Alzheimer's disease over-diagnosed: The well-known disease of Alzheimer's disease is often over-diagnosed. Patients tend to assume that any memory more »

Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for a patient to show mental decline to dementia. Whereas this can, of course, occur due to various medical conditions, such as a stroke or more »

Tremor need not be Parkinson's disease: There is the tendency to believe that any tremor symptom, or shakiness, means Parkinson's disease. The reality is that there are various possibilities, such as more »

Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood pressure. The "cuff" more »

Rare diseases misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease: A rare genetic disorder is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease for men in their 50's. The disease Fragile X disorder can show only mild symptoms in the early years, more »

Hypertension misdiagnosis common in children: Hypertension is often misdiagnosed in adults (see misdiagnosis of hypertension), but its misdiagnosis is even more likely in children. Some of the symptoms of more »

Heart attack: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Heart attack

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Heart attack:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Heart attack, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Heart attack: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Heart attack

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Heart attack

Medical research articles related to Heart attack include:

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Heart attack: Animations

Prognosis for Heart attack

Research about Heart attack

Visit our research pages for current research about Heart attack treatments.

Clinical Trials for Heart attack

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Heart attack include:

Prevention of Heart attack

Prevention information for Heart attack has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Heart attack.

Statistics for Heart attack

Heart attack: Broader Related Topics

Heart attack Message Boards

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User Interactive Forums

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Definitions of Heart attack:

Presence of a thrombus in a coronary artery, often causing a myocardial infarction. - (Source - Diseases Database)

A sudden severe instance of abnormal heart function - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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