What causes a heart attack?
A blockage in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle can lead to a heart attack. A blockage is caused by a buildup of plaque. This is called atherosclerosis. Plaque is made up of deposits, cholesterol, and other substances. When a
plaque breaks (ruptures), a blood clot quickly forms. The blood clot is the actual cause of the heart attack.
What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
Each person may have slightly different symptoms of a heart attack. But these are the most common symptoms:
- Severe pressure, fullness, squeezing, pain, or discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes
- Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulders, neck, arms, or jaw
- Chest pain that gets worse
- Chest pain that doesn't get better with rest or by taking nitroglycerin
- Chest pain that happens along with any of these symptoms:
- Cool, clammy skin or paleness
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or fainting
- Unexplained weakness or fatigue
- Fast or irregular pulse
Chest pain is the key warning sign of a heart attack. But it may be confused with other conditions. These include heartburn, pleurisy, and pneumonia. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.