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Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack): Symptoms

A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. If blood flow isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Not all heart attacks begin with the sudden, crushing chest pain that often is shown on TV or in the movies. In one study, for example, one-third of the patients who had heart attacks had no chest pain. These patients were more likely to be older, female, or diabetic.

The symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person. Some people can have few symptoms and are surprised to learn they've had a heart attack. If you've already had a heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same for another one. It is important for you to know the most common symptoms of a heart attack and also remember these facts:

  • Heart attacks can start slowly and cause only mild pain or discomfort. Symptoms can be mild or more intense and sudden. Symptoms also may come and go over several hours.
  • People who have high blood sugar (diabetes) may have no symptoms or very mild ones.
  • The most common symptom, in both...

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What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

The Management of Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Men [Internet]

The guideline covers men (18 and over) with a clinical working diagnosis of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Options for conservative, pharmacological, surgical, and complementary or alternative treatments are considered in terms of clinical and cost effectiveness.

Type 1 Diabetes in Adults: Diagnosis and Management

Type 1 diabetes affects over 370,000 adults in the UK, representing approximately 10% of adults diagnosed with diabetes. Given the complexity of its treatment regimens, successful outcomes depend, perhaps more than with any other long-term condition, on full engagement of the adult with type 1 diabetes in life-long day-by-day self-management. In order to support this, the health service needs to provide informed, expert support, education and training as well as a range of other more conventional biomedical services and interventionsfor the prevention and management of long term complications and disability.

Identification and Management of Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) [Internet]

While the NHS in England and Wales has made spectacular progress in improving the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, we now need to work harder to identify those who are at particularly high risk of myocardial infarction.

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Summaries for consumers

In people who have had a heart attack because of blocked heart arteries insertion of thin metal tubes (stents) were better than using small balloons to open the arteries up again

Arteries can become clogged and narrowed with deposits of fat, cholesterol and other substances. This is called atherosclerosis and can cause heart attack. Two methods to open narrowed or clogged arteries in people who have had a recent heart attack are inserting a deflated small balloon in the artery and expand it to open the vessel (balloon angioplasty) or to insert a thin metal tube or sleeve (stent) into the artery to scaffold the artery open. This review compared these treatments and found both were equally effective at preventing death but using stents was better than balloon angioplasty because fewer arteries needed to be re‐cleared and stents prevented more heart attacks than balloon angioplasty.

Coronary artery disease: Signs of a heart attack

The most common signs of a heart attack are pain and shortness of breath. But there may be other symptoms as well. If someone is having a heart attack, it is necessary to get medical help as fast as possible. If you think someone may be having a heart attack, do not hesitate and call for help.Some people first find out they have a heart problem when they have a heart attack. But people who have heart attacks often have already had coronary artery disease for years. This causes recurring pain in the chest called angina or shortness of breath during exercise.The pain can spread from the chest down the left or right arm, and it may affect your back, neck or upper abdomen as well. The pain can be mild or very strong.

Ticagrelor (trade name EU: Brilique, US: Brilinta) for people at high risk of a stroke or heart attack: Overview

Ticagrelor (trade name EU: Brilique, US: Brilinta) has been approved in Germany since February 2016 for adults who have had a heart attack at least a year ago and who are at high risk of having another heart attack or stroke.

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Terms to know

Coronary Artery
A principal artery that originates in the aorta. It supplies blood to the muscular tissue of the heart.
Diabetes Mellitus (Diabetes)
A disease in which the body does not control the amount of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood and the kidneys make a large amount of urine. This disease occurs when the body does not make enough insulin or does not use it the way it should.
Heart
The hollow, muscular organ that maintains the circulation of the blood.
Muscles
Muscles function to produce force and motion. They are primarily responsible for maintaining and changing posture, locomotion, as well as movement of internal organs, such as the contraction of the heart and the movement of food through the digestive system.
Oxygen
A colorless, odorless gas. It is needed for animal and plant life. Oxygen that is breathed in enters the blood from the lungs and travels to the tissues.

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Other terms to know: See all 5
Coronary Artery, Diabetes Mellitus (Diabetes), Heart

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