What Is Acute Myocardial Infarction?
- Acute myocardial infarction is the medical name for a heart attack. Heart attacks occur when the flow of blood to the heart becomes blocked. They can cause tissue damage and can even be life-threatening.
- A number of different factors may increase your risk for a heart attack, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Acute myocardial infarction is the medical name for a heart attack. A heart attack is a life-threatening condition that occurs when blood flow to the heart is abruptly cut off, causing tissue damage. This is usually the result of a blockage in one or more of the coronary arteries. A blockage can develop due to a buildup of plaque, a substance mostly made of fat, cholesterol, and cellular waste products.
What Are the Symptoms of Acute Myocardial Infarction?
While the classic symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain and shortness of breath, the symptoms can be quite varied. The most common symptoms of a heart attack include:
- pressure or tightness in the chest
- pain in the chest, back, jaw, and other areas of the upper body that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back
- shortness of breath
- a cough
- a fast heart rate
It’s important to note that not all people who have heart attacks experience the same symptoms or the same severity of symptoms. Chest pain is the most commonly reported symptom among both women and men. However, women are more likely than men to have:
- shortness of breath
- jaw pain
- upper back pain
In fact, some women who have had a heart attack report that their symptoms felt like the symptoms of the flu.
What Causes Acute Myocardial Infarction?
Your heart is the main organ in your cardiovascular system, which also includes different types of blood vessels. Some of the most important vessels are the coronary arteries. They take oxygen-rich blood to all of the organs in your body, including your heart. When these arteries become blocked or narrowed due to a buildup of plaque, the blood flow to your heart can decrease significantly or stop completely. This can cause a heart attack. Several factors may lead to a blockage in the coronary arteries.
Bad cholesterol, also called low-density lipoprotein (LDL), is one of the leading causes of a blockage in the arteries. Cholesterol is a colorless substance that’s found in the food you eat. Your body also makes it naturally. Not all cholesterol is bad, but LDL cholesterol can stick to the walls of your arteries and produce plaque. Plaque is a hard substance that blocks blood flow in the arteries. Blood platelets, which help the blood to clot, may stick to the plaque and build up over time.
Saturated fats may also contribute to the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries. Saturated fats are found mostly in meat and dairy products, including beef, butter, and cheese. These fats may lead to an arterial blockage by increasing the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood system and reducing the amount of good cholesterol.
Another type of fat that contributes to clogged arteries is trans fat, or hydrogenated fat. Trans fat is usually artificially produced and can be found in a variety of processed foods. Trans fat is typically listed on food labels as hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil.
Who Is at Risk for Acute Myocardial Infarction?
Certain factors may increase your risk of having a heart attack.
High Blood Pressure
You’re at greater risk for heart attack if you have high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) depending on your age. As the numbers increase, so does your risk of developing heart problems. Having high blood pressure damages your arteries and accelerates the buildup of plaque.
High Cholesterol Levels
Having high levels of cholesterol in your blood puts you at risk for acute myocardial infarction. You may be able to lower your cholesterol by making changes to your diet or by taking certain medications called statins.
High Triglyceride Levels
High triglyceride levels also increase your risk for having a heart attack. Triglycerides are a type of fat that clog up your arteries. Triglycerides from the food you eat travel through your blood until they’re stored in your body, typically in your fat cells. However, some triglycerides may remain in your arteries and contribute to the buildup of plaque.
Diabetes and High Blood Sugar Levels
Diabetes is a condition that causes blood sugar, or glucose, levels to rise. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and eventually lead to coronary artery disease. This is a serious health condition that can trigger heart attacks in some people.
Your chances of having a heart attack are higher if you’re very overweight. Obesity is associated with various conditions that increase the risk of heart attack, including:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol levels
- high triglyceride levels
Smoking tobacco products increases your risk for heart attack. It may also lead to other cardiovascular conditions and diseases.
The risk of having a heart attack increases with age. Men are at a higher risk of a heart attack after age 45, and women are at a higher risk of a heart attack after age 55.
You’re more likely to have a heart attack if you have a family history of early heart disease. Your risk is especially high if you have male family members who developed heart disease before age 55 or if you have female family members who developed heart disease before age 65.
Other factors that can increase your risk for heart attack include:
- a lack of exercise
- the use of certain illegal drugs, including cocaine and amphetamines
- a history of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy