Myocardial infarction

What are the early symptoms of myocardial infarction?

A heart attack or myocardial infarction occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is blocked. If blood flow is not restored, the heart will die without oxygen.

Symptoms of a heart attack may vary from person to person, but often include chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and arm or jaw pain .

According to the latest statistics, cardiovascular disease has become the number one cause of death in my country. There are currently about 330 million patients with cardiovascular disease in China, which means that 1 in every 5 adults is affected by it. The troubles of cardiovascular disease; and 1 in every 13 patients with cardiovascular disease suffers from myocardial infarction.

Typically, heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease , which causes plaque buildup in the arteries. However, other problems, such as heart spasms or blood clots, can also cause a heart attack. Fortunately, many people survive and live full lives after a heart attack, but getting timely treatment is key.

Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction

Types of heart attacks

Three main types of heart attacks:

ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI)

The most life-threatening heart attack is STEMI, which occurs when a coronary artery is completely or almost completely blocked. Since these arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle, blockage in them can cause your heart to lose blood and oxygen, leading to heart failure .

STEMI is usually caused by rupture of atherosclerotic plaque, a buildup of cholesterol and fat that ruptures and blocks the arteries.

Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI)

NSTEMI occurs when your heart cannot meet its demand for oxygen. Unlike ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, there is no easily identifiable electrical pattern (or ST-segment elevation). This means it won’t show up as spikes on an echocardiogram (ECG) (a common test for suspected heart attacks.)

NSTEMI heart attacks occur due to partial blockage of a coronary artery or blockage of a branch of a coronary artery. These types of heart attacks are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Of the people who experience a heart attack each year, 70% will have NSTEMI.

coronary artery spasm

Coronary artery spasm is a temporary constriction of the heart’s arteries. Spasms can slow or stop the flow of blood through the arteries, causing chest pain ( angina ). These cramps are most common in people who smoke or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. May be triggered by emotional stress, exposure to cold, alcohol withdrawal, and certain medications.

Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction

Heart attack symptoms

Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack and acting quickly can improve your chances of survival. Typically, a heart attack involves discomfort in the center or left side of the chest. This may feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.

  • The main symptoms of a heart attack include:
  • Experiencing chest pain or discomfort
  • Feeling weak, dizzy, or passed out
  • Pain or discomfort in your jaw, neck, back, arms, or shoulders
  • Shortness of breath
  • feeling unusually tired
  • vomiting or feeling sick

What causes a heart attack?

In most cases, heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease, which occurs when the arteries cannot carry enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Coronary artery disease can be the result of atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque within arteries that causes them to become narrower.

As the disease progresses, a piece of plaque within the artery may rupture, forming a blood clot. If the clot gets too large, it can block blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack.

However, not all heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease. When another condition causes a heart attack, in the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease (MINOCA), it is called a myocardial infarction. Some conditions that may cause MINOCA include:

  • Embolism , or when a blood clot or air bubble causes a sudden blockage in an artery
  • Coronary artery spasm, which tightens the arteries and blocks blood flow
  • small plaques that can rupture and cause blood clots
  • Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), which occurs when an artery tears and can block the artery or cause blood clots to form

Risk factors

Certain factors increase the likelihood of a heart attack. Some of these factors are based on genetics, while others stem from lifestyle and can be controlled.

How is a heart attack diagnosed?

Once you arrive at the hospital, your doctor will perform several tests to determine if you are currently having a heart attack or have already had one. These tests may include:

Electrocardiogram : Typically, the first test a healthcare provider uses when diagnosing a heart attack is an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which measures your heart’s electrical activity.


Blood tests : When cells in your heart muscle die, they release proteins into your bloodstream. For example, you can have a troponin test to determine if this protein, normally found only in the heart, is leaking into your bloodstream.

Imaging : Tests such as a chest X-ray or CT scan may be use to determine whether your heart is working properly.

Blood Pressure Test : During a stress test , you will perform light exercise or receive medication to simulate the movement of your heart. In this case, the doctor will perform an electrocardiogram and measure your blood pressure. This can help determine the cause of the heart attack and the extent of damage to the heart.

How to prevent a heart attack

Whether you’ve already had a heart attack or are at high risk, there are ways to lower your risk. First, talk to your doctor about managing your heart health and any other conditions that increase your risk, including high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.

Under the guidance of your doctor, try to do as much physical activity as possible. Physical activity after a first heart attack can help prevent a second heart attack. The study found that people who exercised had a 34% lower risk of a second heart attack compared to those who didn’t exercise.

People who were physically active, especially in the first year after a heart attack, were 63% less likely to develop heart disease compared with the least active group. 16

You can also improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart attack by:

  • Prepare meals that are low in sodium and rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Take your medications and attend medical appointments as recommended.
  • Prioritize your sleep and aim for seven to eight hours a night.

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