Heart Attack

Overview

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction (MI) or coronary thrombosis, occurs when one of your coronary arteries becomes blocked. A coronary artery is a blood vessel that supplies your heart with oxygen-rich blood. The blockage is usually caused by a build-up of fatty deposits (plaques). Part of this blockage can break off and cause a blood clot to form and block your artery. This stops blood and oxygen from getting to your heart leading to damage to your heart muscle. This is a heart attack.

Causes of a heart attack

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of heart attacks. CHD is a condition in which the coronary arteries (the major blood vessels that supply the heart with blood) become blocked with deposits of cholesterol.

The risk of heart disease increases as you age. You have a greater risk of heart disease if you are a man over age 45 or a woman over age 55. You also are at a greater risk if you have a close family member who had heart disease at an early age.

Other factors that increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease include the following:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight, especially if you have excess body fat around your waist
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • A family history of heart disease
  • Eating an unhealthy diet, such as foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar
  • Stress and depression

Prevention of heart attack

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the UK. It is also a major cause of disability. Fortunately, you can prevent heart disease by following a heart-healthy lifestyle. Here are strategies to help you protect your heart.

  • Know your blood pressure and keep it under control
  • Exercise regularly
  • Do not smoke
  • Know your risk of diabetes or control your diabetes
  • Know your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keep them under control
  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain a healthy weight