What Is A Heart Attack?

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is a medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly and severely reduced or cut off, causing the muscle to die from lack of oxygen.


Common heart attack symptoms include:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain

Causes and Risk Factors

Certain factors contribute to the unwanted buildup of fatty deposits that narrows arteries throughout your body, including arteries to your heart. You can improve or eliminate many of these risk factors to reduce your chances of having a first or subsequent heart attack by controlling these following risk factors:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Illegal drug use, such as, cocaine


The diagnosis of a heart attack is based on symptoms, diagnostic tests, including labs.


Treatment may include medications, coronary interventions or surgery.


It's never too late to take steps to prevent a heart attack - even if you've already had one. Taking medications can reduce your risk of a subsequent heart attack and help your damaged heart function better. Lifestyle factors also play a critical role in heart attack prevention and recovery. Such as:

  • Not smoking
  • Controlling certain conditions, like, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
  • Staying physically active
  • Eating healthy food
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reducing and managing stress

Cardiovascular Research

Saving Lives through Cardiac Research

Patient Story

Gina Simpson, Heart Disease