Heart attack is clinically known as myocardial infarction, and it features an irreversible destruction of the heart muscle resulting from a prolonged reduction in oxygen supply, also known as ischemia. A heart attack is usually the final stage of acute coronary disease, which is a problem in the coronary arteries consisting of a progressive thickening of the artery walls due to a process called atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is the most important cause of heart attack, and it is a complex process of inflammation, and immune reactions in the walls of the blood vessels that results in the formation of an atherosclerotic plaque made up of cholesterol, immune cells, and inflammatory mediators. This plaque reduces the available space in the lumen of the arteries and compromises the blood flow, causing an event called angina pectoris.
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As time goes by and the plaque becomes larger, it becomes more susceptible, and it is likely that it will rupture and cause a massive thrombosis that obliterates the coronary arteries and leads to myocardial infarction. The most important signs and symptoms these patients report are as follows:
The most common symptom in myocardial infarction is chest pain, which is sometimes rather mild and reported as discomfort. Others patients do not report any type of pain, especially those who have a high pain threshold or a nervous system alteration due to advanced diabetes mellitus and other health problems. However, the typical chest pain in myocardial infarction is intense and continuous for at least 30 minutes. It often radiates to other areas of the body, and it is described as an oppressive pain or pressure in the middle of the chest. Patients often feel indigestion, bloating, and other gastrointestinal symptoms associated with the intensity of the pain.