What happens when you have a heart attack?
A heart attack occurs when the blood vessel that supplies blood to your heart (coronary artery) gets blocked – partially or completely. The lack of blood supply means the heart does not get enough oxygen or nutrients. When you experience a heart attack, the signs and symptoms include:
What are the four signs of an impending heart attack?
Some heart attacks are sudden and severe. But most begin slowly with chest discomfort as the first sign. You need to pay attention if you experience the following warning signs of a heart attack. These signs are as suggested by the American Heart Association (AHA):
- Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes.
- Sometimes, you may have chest discomfort that goes away and then returns. You may feel uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body.
- You feel pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, and jaw. You may also get a stomachache.
Shortness of breath.
- You may suffer from shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
Other possible signs include
What does a mini heart attack feel like?
You must have often heard of other people having something called a “mini heart attack” or mild heart attack. Although there is no such term as a “mini” heart attack in the medical dictionary, it can be compared with a mild heart attack or a silent heart attack.
Mild heart attack
- You get a mild heart attack when there is a partial block in your coronary artery that causes mild signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
- If your doctor tells you that you have had a mild heart attack, it probably means your heart is not damaged much and is working properly.
Silent heart attack
- Sometimes, you may not even know that you have suffered a heart attack. Such a heart attack is usually said to be a silent heart attack. Your doctor accidentally may discover a past attack on your routine ECG (electrocardiogram) when you go for your regular check-up.
- While in other instances, a heart problem or another heart attack could make the doctor suspect that you may have had a silent heart attack. This may similarly show up in your ECG when you visit your doctor for a different heart problem.
- Such a heart attack might have occurred months or years before without you even knowing about it.
- A silent heart attack is usually lacking the typical signs and symptoms of a heart attack, such as shortness of breath. Symptoms of a heart attack like mild pain in the throat or chest can be confused with hyperacidity, indigestion, and heartburn.
What are the tests to diagnose a heart attack?
ECG: An ECG is one of the most common tests. It allows a doctor to get a sense of how severe your heart attack was and which part of your heart has been damaged.
Blood tests: Presence/level of various enzymes in your blood like creatine phosphokinase (CPK), CPK-MB and troponin can indicate the extent of damage to your cardiac muscle.
Echocardiography: This test is done during and after the heart attack to check if the heart attack has damaged your heart valves and determine the pumping capacity of your heart.
Cardiac catheterization: You may be asked to go urgently for angiography, which is done with the help of a surgical procedure known as cardiac catheterization. This will let the cardiac surgeon know the location of the block in the coronary artery to help him decide the most appropriate treatment for your heart attack.
How is a heart attack treated?
Specific medicines may be taken (within one or two hours from the start of your heart attack) to limit heart damage.
Medicinal drugs used during a heart attack may include:
If medications fail to improve the signs and symptoms of heart attack, either of the following cardiac surgeries will be planned by the cardiac surgeon.
Angioplasty: A procedure to open the narrowed or blocked arteries supplying blood to the heart. This can be done immediately after angiography on the same day.
Bypass surgery (coronary artery bypass graft): A procedure in which the surgeon takes blood vessels taken from another area of your body and uses them to bypass the blocked/narrowed arteries to enable re-supply of blood to the affected areas of the heart. This surgery is usually planned a few days after a heart attack.
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Medically Reviewed on 6/25/2020
What Is a ‘Mild Heart Attack’ (and Is It a Big Deal, or Not)? Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-is-a-mild-heart-attack-and-is-it-a-big-deal-or-not/
Never Ignore These 11 Heart Symptoms. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/never-ignore-symptoms#1
Heart Attack. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/heart-disease-heart-attacks#1
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack
The danger of “silent” heart attacks. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-danger-of-silent-heart-attacks