Myocardial Infarction: Introduction FeedbackA general introduction to Myocardial Infarction.Source: NHS Choices, 13 Jun 2014
A heart attack is a serious medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. Lack of blood to the heart can seriously damage the heart muscle.
A heart attack is known medically as a myocardial infarction or MI.
Symptoms can include:
- chest pain – the chest can feel like it is being pressed or squeezed by a heavy object, and pain can radiate from the chest to the jaw, neck, arms and back
- shortness of breath
- feeling weak and/or lightheaded
- overwhelming feeling of anxiety
It is important to stress that not everyone experiences severe chest pain; the pain can often be mild and mistaken for indigestion.
It is the combination of symptoms that is important in determining whether a person is having a heart attack, and not the severity of chest pain.
Read more about the symptoms of a heart attack.
Treating heart attacks
A heart attack is a medical emergency. Dial 999 and ask for an ambulance if you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack.
If the casualty is not allergic to aspirin and it’s easily available, give them a tablet (ideally 300mg) to slowly chew and then swallow while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
The aspirin will help to thin the blood and reduce the risk of a heart attack.
Treatment for a heart attack will depend on how serious it is. Two main treatments are:
- using medication to dissolve blood clots
- surgery to help restore blood to the heart
Read more about treating heart attacks.
What causes a heart attack?
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of heart attacks. CHD is a condition in which coronary arteries (the major blood vessels that supply blood to the heart) get clogged up with deposits of cholesterol. These deposits are called plaques.
Before a heart attack, one of the plaques ruptures (bursts), causing a blood clot to develop at the site of the rupture. The clot may then block the supply of blood running through the coronary artery, triggering a heart attack.
Your risk of developing CHD is increased by:
Read more about the causes of heart attacks.
The time it takes to recover from a heart attack will depend on the amount of damage to the heart muscle. Some people are well enough to return to work after two weeks. Other people may take several months to recover. The recovery process aims to:
- reduce your risk of another heart attack through a combination of lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, and medications, such as statins (which help lower blood cholesterol levels)
- gradually restore your physical fitness so you can resume normal activities (known as cardiac rehabilitation)
Most people can return to work after having a heart attack, but how quickly will depend on your health, the state of your heart and the type of work you do.
Read more about recovering from a heart attack.
Who is affected
Heart attacks are one of the most common reasons why a person requires emergency medical treatment.
Men are more likely to have a heart attack than women. The British Heart Foundation estimates that around 50,000 men and 32,000 women have a heart attack each year in England.
Most heart attacks occur in people aged over 45.
Complications of heart attacks can be serious and possibly life-threatening. These include:
- arrhythmia – this is an abnormal heartbeat, where the heart begins beating faster and faster, then stops beating (cardiac arrest)
- cardiogenic shock – where the heart's muscles are severely damaged and can no longer contract properly to supply enough blood to maintain many body functions
- heart rupture – where the heart’s muscles, walls or valves split apart (rupture)
These complications can occur quickly after a heart attack and are a leading cause of death.
Many people will die suddenly from a complication of a heart attack before reaching hospital.
Read more about the complications of a heart attack.
The outlook for people who have had a heart attack can be highly variable, depending on:
- their age – the older you are, the more likely you are to experience serious complications
- the severity of the heart attack – specifically, how much of the heart's muscle has been damaged during the attack
- how long it took before a person received treatment – the longer the delay, the worse the outlook tends to be
In general, around one third of people who have a heart attack die as a result. These deaths often occur before a person reaches hospital or, alternatively, within the first 28 days after the heart attack.
If a person survives for 28 days after having a heart attack, their outlook improves dramatically and most people will go on to live for many years.
Myocardial Infarction: Guidance FeedbackThe most relevant search results for Myocardial Infarction from producers of guidance information.
- Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, 29 January 2013
- Myocardial infarction with ST-segment elevation
- Myocardial infarction: secondary prevention
- Acute coronary syndromes
- Hyperglycaemia in acute coronary syndromes
- Finnish Medical Society Duodecim, 08 December 2013
Myocardial infarction with ST-segment elevation: The acute management of myocardial infarction with ST-segment elevation - guidance (CG167)National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 01 July 2013
MI – secondary prevention: Secondary prevention in primary and secondary care for patients following a myocardial infarction - guidance (CG172)National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 01 November 2013
Chest pain of recent onset: Assessment and diagnosis of recent onset chest pain or discomfort of suspected cardiac origin - guidance (CG95)National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 01 March 2010
Hyperglycaemia in acute coronary syndromes: Management of hyperglycaemia in acute coronary syndromes - guidance (CG130)National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 01 October 2011
Unstable angina and NSTEMI: The early management of unstable angina and non-ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction - guidance (CG94)National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 01 March 2010
Myocardial Infarction: Commissioning FeedbackThe most relevant search results for Myocardial Infarction from producers of commissioning advice.
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 01 November 2013
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Psychological assessment and treatment for medically unexplained symptoms and long-term conditions [PDF]QIPP, 27 November 2009
- QIPP, 09 February 2011
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 05 September 2014
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 01 March 2013
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 01 June 2011
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 14 September 2011
Information for the public
Myocardial Infarction: Information for the public FeedbackThe most relevant search results for Myocardial Infarction, from Department of Health accredited producers of patient information.
- Bupa , 22 August 2014
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- NHS Choices, 26 September 2014
- Patient UK
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Myocardial Infarction: Medicines FeedbackAppropriate medicines information for Myocardial Infarction supplied by Datapharm, a leading source of trusted, credible information about medicines.
Heart attack - Medicines Information
- Abciximab (a generic version of Reopro)
- Acepril (a brand of Captopril)
- Adrenaline acid tartrate
- Aggrastat (a brand of Tirofiban Hydrochloride)
- Alteplase (a generic version of Actilyse)
- Angettes (a brand of Aspirin)
- Angiox (a brand of Bivalirudin)
- Betim (a brand of Timolol Maleate)
- Clexane (a brand of Enoxaparin Sodium)
- Clopidogrel (a generic version of Plavix)
- Cordarone X (a brand of Amiodarone Hydrochloride)
- Cordilox (a brand of Verapamil Hydrochloride)
- Coversyl Arginine
- Diovan (a brand of Valsartan)
- Disopyramide phosphate
- Dobutamine hydrochloride
- Ecopace (a brand of Captopril)
- Eptifibatide (a generic version of Integrilin)
- Heparin sodium
- Inspra (a brand of Eplerenone)
- Lescol (a brand of Fluvastatin Sodium)
- Lidocaine hydrochloride
- Lopace (a brand of Ramipril)
- Losartan (a generic version of Cozaar)
- Micropirin (a brand of Aspirin)
- Minijet adrenaline (a brand of Adrenaline Acid Tartrate)
- Minijet amiodarone (a brand of Amiodarone Hydrochloride)
- Minijet Atropine (a brand of Atropine Sulphate)
- Minijet Lidocaine (a brand of Lidocaine Hydrochloride)
- Minijet Sodium Bicarbonate (a brand of Sodium Bicarbonate)
- Multiparin (a brand of Heparin Sodium)
- Nu-Seals (a brand of Aspirin)
- Perindopril arginine (a generic version of Coversyl Arginine)
- Prasugrel hydrochloride (a generic version of Efient)
- Pravastatin sodium
- Rapilysin (a brand of Reteplase)
- Rosuvastatin (a generic version of Crestor)
- Rythmodan (a brand of Disopyramide Phosphate)
- Rythmodan capsules (a brand of Disopyramide)
- Sectral (a brand of Acebutolol Hydrochloride)
- Securon (a brand of Verapamil Hydrochloride)
- Selectajet Dopamine (a brand of Dopamine Hydrochloride)
- Sodium Bicarbonate
- Streptase (a brand of Streptokinase)
- Sure-Amp Lidocaine (a brand of Lidocaine Hydrochloride)
- Syner-Kinase (a brand of Urokinase)
- Syprol (a brand of Propranolol Hydrochloride)
- Tambocor (a brand of Flecainide Acetate)
- Telmisartan (a generic version of Micardis)
- Tenecteplase (a generic version of Metalyse)
- Ticagrelor (a generic version of Brilique)
- Trandolapril (a generic version of Gopten)
- Tritace (a brand of Ramipril)
- Univer (a brand of Verapamil Hydrochloride)
- Vera-Til (a brand of Verapamil Hydrochloride)
- Vertab (a brand of Verapamil Hydrochloride)
- Zolvera (a brand of Verapamil Hydrochloride)
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