A myocardial infarction, the medical term for a heart attack, occurs when the blood flow to the heart is reduced or blocked. A blockage happens when fatty deposits build up in the walls of the arteries supplying blood to the heart, resulting in a poor oxygen supply to the heart muscle. If the blood flow is not restored promptly, the affected heart tissue dies.
Some patients experience chest pains when a heart attack occurs, but others present no symptoms at all. It is crucial to recognise the warning signs of a heart attack because it can largely be prevented.
Myocardial infarction is the number 2 leading cause of death in Singapore after cancer and is the leading cause of death in some parts of the world.
Common warning signs of a heart attack include:
While chest discomfort or pain is the most common symptom, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
The most common cause of a heart attack is the narrowing of one or more of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This results from the build-up of cholesterol deposits in the wall of arteries (a process known as atherosclerosis). This restricts blood flow to the heart muscle and compromises the supply of oxygen.
A partial or complete blockage of the heart’s arteries may then arise, and a sudden and severe blockage can lead to a heart attack.
There are modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors associated with a heart attack.
Modifiable risk factors include:
Non-modifiable risk factors include:
If you have any of the risk factors, it is important to go for regular heart screening with a specialist to ensure a healthy heart. Talk to your cardiologist to find out more.
A heart attack is a serious event with long-lasting consequences and complications. Potential complications from a heart attack can vary widely, from mild to life threatening.
These complications include:
An arrhythmia occurs when an abnormal heart beats either too fast, too slow or irregularly. This affects the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart and can lead to palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, fatigue or breathlessness.
Heart failure happens when the heart is unable to pump blood effectively to the rest of the body. It can lead to breathlessness, fatigue and build-up of fluid in the arms and legs (oedema).
Heart rupture or cardiac rupture is a rare complication following a heart attack where the damage or trauma caused by a prior heart attack has created a weakened area that can lead to a tear or rupture.
Cardiogenic shock is similar to a heart failure but in a more severe form. Symptoms can include mental confusion, cold hands and feet, rapid heartbeat, pale skin and difficulty breathing.