Heart Attack

Heart attack is a medical emergency and if you suspect symptoms of heart attack you should call for an ambulance and seek medical help immediately.

A heart attack (or 'myocardial infarction') is when part of the heart muscle is damaged and dies because it is not receiving oxygen. Most heart attacks are caused by a sudden blockage in the coronary arteries with a blood clot suddenly forming above a previous narrowing.

Most people with a heart attack will experience chest pain, though this is not always severe and some may mistake it for indigestion. Unlike angina the symptoms do not improve with rest of GTN:

  • Fullness, uncomfortable pressure, squeeze in the middle of the chest
  • Tightness, burning or a heavy weight over your chest
  • Pain may radiate to your shoulders, neck, arms, upper abdomen, back or jaw.

20% of the patients with heart attack have no pain. This is seen in diabetics, high blood pressure, and elderly patients.

If you suspect symptoms of heart attack, you should call for an ambulance or seek immediate medical attention.

The treatment of heart attack

For many years heart attacks have been treated with 'clot busting' drugs which break down the clot. Over the last few years however this has been widely replaced with primary angioplasty and stenting. An ambulance will often take a person with a heart attack directly to a centre where an angiogram can be performed immediately and the blockade opened with a balloon and a stent implanted to keep the artery open. This has higher success rates and better long-term outcomes than clot busting drugs.

After this treatment with consist of lifestyle measures and drugs to protect the heart and reduce cholesterol:

Commonly used drugs are:

  • Aspirin - to thin the blood
  • Clopidogrel - to thin the blood
  • ACE-inhibitors - to take pressure off the heart
  • Beta-blockers - to stop the heart overworking and protect the heart muscle
  • 'Statins'  - to reduce cholesterol

Cardiac rehabilitation is also very important after a heart attack and all patents should be offered local rehabilitation classes. These provide information, advice and exercise classes and are proven to aid recovery and reduce future risk.

Please note:

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information on this website is up-to-date and accurate. However, it is intended to serve as a guide only. Symptoms may vary and if you have any medical concerns you should always consult a healthcare professional.