A heart attack occurs when the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. A blood clot or plaque buildup can create a partial or complete blockage in one or more of the blood vessels that supply the heart, causing a heart attack.
In rare cases, a heart attack can also happen when the coronary artery spasms, which tightens the vessel and restricts blood flow to the heart. The heart muscle may become damaged or stop functioning altogether if it does not receive enough oxygen.
The most common symptoms of a heart attack, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, include:
- pain or discomfort in one or both arms
- intense pressure in the chest
- pain in the upper stomach, which may feel like indigestion or heartburn
- shortness of breath
Other symptoms to look for include:
- pain or numbness in the back, shoulders, neck, or jaw
- feeling lightheaded or faint
- nausea and vomiting
A heart attack is a serious medical emergency. People should call 911 immediately if they think that they or someone else is having a heart attack.
Doctors will attempt to open the blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart. The exact type of treatment will depend on the location of the blockage, the person’s overall health status, and the amount of time that has elapsed since the heart attack began.
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