Heart attacks, also known as myocardial infarction, can be fatal if medical care is not sought quickly. Each year, more than one million people have a heart attack in the United States. Heart attacks occur when cholesterol, fat and other substances form plaque and cause blockages in the arteries feeding the heart.
Risk factors for a heart attack include family history; high blood pressure; high cholesterol levels; certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus; an inactive lifestyle; obesity; stress; illegal drug use; smoking; and being over 45 years of age.
If a heart attack is suspected, call 911 or seek emergency medical care immediately. Angina (recurrent chest pain) is one of the earliest signs of an impending heart attack. Other signs are pressure, tightness, aching or pain in the chest or arms, which spreads to the jaw, back or neck; shortness of breath; fatigue; cold sweats; heartburn or abdominal pain; a feeling of nausea or indigestion; heart palpitations; and sudden dizziness or feeling lightheaded.
Preventative measures may reduce the chance of heart attack, for example; lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet; maintaining a healthy weight; exercising; and stopping smoking. Medical checks and medication to lower cholesterol and blood pressure may also help avoid a heart attack.
Treatment for heart attack includes surgery, hospitalization, lifestyle changes, and medication. Drug classes commonly used to treat heart attacks are angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors/ACEIs, selective beta-blockers, ADP (adenosine diphosphate) receptor antagonist platelet aggregation inhibitors, vitamin K antagonists and angiotensin-II receptor blockers/ARBs.