Heart attack

A heart attack happens when there is a sudden complete blockage of an artery that supplies blood to an area of your heart.

A heart is a muscle, and it needs a good blood supply to keep it healthy.

As we get older, the smooth inner walls of the arteries that supply the blood to the heart can become damaged and narrow due to the build up of fatty materials, called plaque.

When an area of plaque breaks, blood cells and other parts of the blood stick to the damaged area and form blood clots. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot completely blocks the flow of blood and seriously reduces blood flow to the heart muscle. This also results in patients experiencing chest pain.

As a result, some of the heart muscle starts to die.

The longer the blockage is left untreated, the more the heart muscle is damaged. If the blood flow is not restored quickly, the damage to the heart muscle is permanent.

A heart attack is sometimes called a myocardial infarction (MI), acute myocardial infarction, coronary occlusion or coronary thrombosis.

Causes

The underlying cause of a heart attack is coronary heart disease

Some people may not know they have coronary heart disease until they have a heart attack. For others, a heart attack can happen after weeks, months or years of having coronary heart disease. 

Symptoms

Heart attack warning signs can vary from person to person, and they may not always be sudden or severe. Read about heart attack warning signs 

Diagnosis

If you are rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack, your health care team will do some tests to find out if you are having a heart attack. They may include:

  • electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • blood tests
  • chest X-ray
  • coronary angiogram.

These tests will help them to decide the best treatment for you. Find out more about medical tests 

Treatment

Emergency treatment

If you think you’re having a heart attack, call Triple Zero (000). Don’t hang up. Ask the operator for an ambulance. Too many people lose their lives because they wait too long to get treatment for heart attack. 

You may be given medicines to help dissolve clots. 

There is a high risk of dangerous changes to your heartbeat after the start of a heart attack. The most serious changes stop your heart beating and cause a cardiac arrest. Ambulance or hospital staff may use a defibrillator to give your heart a controlled electric shock that may make it start beating again. 

In hospital

In hospital, you will receive treatments that help to reduce damage to your heart, and to help prevent future problems. You may need to have a procedure like: 

  • angioplasty and stent implantation 
  • bypass surgery (also known as coronary artery bypass grafts or CABG).

Read more about heart procedures and devices 

Preventing further problems

Medical treatments and healthy lifestyle choices can help your heart attack recovery, greatly reduce your risk of further heart problems, and relieve or control symptoms such as angina. Read about living with heart disease 

Cardiac rehabilitation

If you’ve had a heart attack or a procedure, you should be given information about a cardiac rehabilitation program which is another really important step in your recovery.

Information sheets

Share this

Women from low socioeconomic backgrounds 25% more likely to have #heartattack than similar men. Read:… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…