The medical term for a heart attack is called myocardial infarction, and it occurs when there is death to the heart tissue. It is caused by a blockage or narrowing in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. This lack of blood and oxygen causes injury to the heart muscle. Symptoms and warning signs can often times be mild and differ between men and women.
There are two types of heart attacks: mild and typical. In a typical heart attack, a blood clot gets lodged in one of the heart’s arteries, blocking its blood flow. This results in an easily recognizable pattern during ECG, (or electrocardiogram) testing, the most common procedure used to determine if a heart attack has taken place. However, in the case of a mild heart attack, the blood flow is only partially interrupted and this pattern does not clearly show up during ECG testing.
While chest pain is the most common symptom in men, they can also experience pain in other areas of the body (usually the upper body), along with cold sweats, clammy skin and other flu-like warning signs. Women are more likely to feel pain in the back or jaw, experience dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea, as well as severe, unexplainable fatigue. Recognizing heart attacks in women has become an issue, in part because their symptoms are not considered typical, so they may not receive the same medical care as men do.
Heart disease may start with symptoms of angina, which creates pain in the chest area, similar to that of a heart attack, and is caused by lack of oxygen to the heart. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, daytime fatigue, and syncope, a medical term for fainting.
Fortunately, it’s possible to prevent both mild and typical heart attacks, with a healthy lifestyle, proper exercise regimen, and regular check-ups; it’s important to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels monitored, and to take part in stress tests if and when they are recommended, which can help indicate if you are headed for heart disease. There is a reason why heart disease is known as ‘the silent killer,’ because often times there are no warning signs until it is actually happening.
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