About Heart Attacks

Updated:Apr 23,2015

View an animation of a heart attack. (opens in new window)
Every year, tens of thousands of Americans survive heart attack, go back to work and enjoy a normal life. You have every reason to be confident of a full recovery. Your heart is healing and with each passing day you'll get stronger and more active.

The following questions and answers will help you better understand what has happened to you and how you get started on the road to recovery.

View an animation of a heart attack.

Heart Attack Questions and Answers

Your heart muscle needs oxygen to survive. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely (View an animation of blood flow). This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood flow can slowly become narrrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque. This slow process is known as atherosclerosis . When a plaque in a heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque. This blood clot can block the blood flow through the heart muscle. When the heart muscle is starved for oxygen and nutrients, it is called ischemia. When damage or death of part of the heart muscle occurs as a result of ischemia, it is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI). About every 34 seconds, someone in the United States has a myocardial infarction (heart attack).



This content was last reviewed on 10/20/2012.


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