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A heart attack—also called myocardial infarction or MI—occurs when
an area of heart muscle is completely deprived of blood, and the heart muscle
A heart attack may result when plaque inside the heart arteries
breaks open or ruptures, forming a clot that significantly blocks blood flow
through the artery.
A plaque is made up of cholesterol, white blood cells, calcium, and
other components, and it is surrounded by a fibrous cap. This fibrous cap may
tear or rupture if blood suddenly flows faster, or the artery suddenly narrows.
A tear or rupture signals the body to repair the injured artery lining, much as
it might heal a cut on the skin, by forming a blood clot to seal the area. A
blood clot that forms in an artery can completely block blood flow to the heart
muscle and cause a heart attack.
The pain of a heart attack often occurs with other symptoms,
The pain of a heart attack usually will not go away with
It is important to recognize the early stages of a heart attack and
to seek emergency care. Medical treatment is needed to prevent death. Sometimes
medicines can be given to reduce the damage to the heart muscle caused by a
May 5, 2009
Robin Parks, MS
Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine & John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
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