A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is the death of part of the heart muscle. The pain associated with a heart attack is typically felt in the chest but may also be felt in the arms, neck or jaw. The pain may be mild or severe and may not be relieved by nitroglycerin. In some cases a heart attack is also associated with shortness of breath and sweating. If any doubt exists, the person should immediately go to the hospital or call their doctor.
Interruption of blood supply to an area of heart muscle causes death of heart muscle and results in a weakened heart.
Both blood tests and electrocardiography (ECG) are used to diagnose heart attacks. Treatment usually includes rest and support with heart and pain medicine. It is important that heart medicines that break down clots (thrombolytics) be considered as quickly as possible. Some patients may be considered for a cardiac catheterization and angioplasty or stent procedure to open the blocked blood vessel responsible for causing the heart attack.
Patients with symptoms of a heart attack should seek medical attention immediately. If a person is not seen immediately by a doctor, complications such as an abnormal heart rhythm, heart failure, or death may result.
Related LinksNational Library of Medicine
The National Library of Medicine presents information and pictures about heart attacks.