Heart Attack Warning Signs
A heart attack, also called myocardial infarction, is a life-threatening medical event. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart muscle is interrupted, resulting in damage or death of the muscle cells. Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot blocking one of the coronary arteries, or the vessels that are responsible for delivering oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Once a vessel is blocked, the cells no longer receive the oxygen they need to function.
Heart attacks may also occur as a result of plaque buildup in the arteries. Plaque is a hard substance that is largely composed of cholesterol. When these plaques develop cracks or tears, blood platelets tend to stick to them and form a clot, which can also block blood flow to the heart.
Myocardial infarction can occur at any time, but is most common when a person is resting, is asleep, suddenly increases physical activity, suffers from a sudden, severe emotional or physical stress, or partakes in strenuous activity in cold weather. While some heart attacks set on suddenly and have intense symptoms, most start slowly with mild signs and progress in severity. Oftentimes, people are unsure of what is happening and wait too long to seek medical intervention. The signs of a heart attack include:
- Severe or mild chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes or occurs intermittently; it can feel like bad indigestion, heavy pressure on the chest, or like a tight band is wound around the center of your chest
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, stomach, or jaw
- Feelings of anxiety or impending doom
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Heavy sweating
If you experience possible heart attack symptoms, seriously consider calling 911 and seeking immediate emergency care. The Emergency Medicine and Trauma II Center at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center provides cutting-edge emergency care for the community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information, contact us at (805) 497-2727.