Everything You Need to Know About Heart Attacks
Cardiovascular disease doesn’t affect all racial and ethnic groups equally. According to the AHA, the cardiovascular disease death rate for African-Americans is about one-third higher than for the overall U.S. population.
American Indians and Alaska Natives are also at higher risk for death from cardiovascular disease, with 36 percent dying from it before age 65, compared with only 17 percent of the overall U.S. population. (6)
The Degree of Blockage of a Coronary Artery Determines the Type of Heart Attack
Heart attacks are divided into types based on severity:
STEMI Heart Attack
This is the deadliest type of heart attack. It happens when a coronary artery is completely blocked.
STEMI is short for ST segment elevation myocardial infarction. This refers to changes that can be seen on an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).
Sometimes called a massive heart attack or a “widowmaker” heart attack, a STEMI heart attack causes significantly reduced blood flow to the heart.
As a result, areas of the heart muscle quickly begin to die.
NSTEMI Heart Attack
This type of heart attack happens when blood flow to your heart through a coronary artery is severely restricted but not entirely blocked.
NSTEMI stands for non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction.
Sometimes called a mini heart attack or a mild heart attack, an NSTEMI heart attack usually causes less damage to the heart than a STEMI heart attack. (7)
Silent Heart Attack
Some people have a heart attack with mild symptoms or even none at all, known as a silent heart attack.
Although they don’t involve severe symptoms, silent heart attacks are far from harmless. They can cause permanent damage to the heart muscle.
Silent heart attacks account for about 45 percent of all heart attacks, according to Harvard Medical School. They affect women more often than men. (8)
Heart Attack Complications
Certain complications may arise after a heart attack, depending on the location and extent of damage to your heart.
Common heart attack complications include:
Arrhythmias happen when the electrical signals that control heartbeats become abnormal or disorganized.
More in Arrhythmias
An arrhythmia may cause heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
An electrical disturbance can cause your heart to stop beating altogether. This condition can be fatal without immediate treatment. (9)
Damage to your heart from a heart attack or coronary heart disease can lead to problems with the pumping function of your heart.
Heart failure happens when your heart's pumping action becomes weaker, and it can’t pump enough blood to meet your body's needs.
A heart attack may damage one of the four valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction through your heart.
Valve problems can lead to an abnormal heart murmur when a doctor listens to your heart, as well as fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and swelling in your ankles and feet. (10)
A heart attack can be a scary, stressful, life-changing event.
As many as one-third of people who survive a heart attack will develop depression following the incident, according to the American Heart Association.
If you find that your mood or eating or sleeping habits have changed, or you no longer enjoy certain activities after your heart attack, see your doctor to discuss treatment options, which may include counseling or medication.
Video: The Heart and Circulatory System - How They Work
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