A heart attack happens when blood flow to a part of your heart muscle is suddenly blocked.
Sometimes heart attacks happen when the heart needs more oxygen than the blood vessels can provide. This might happen, for example, during hard exercise such as shoveling snow.
The heart is a muscle like other muscles in your body. It needs oxygen, which it gets from the blood in blood vessels. The blood vessels that bring blood to the heart are called coronary arteries. A blood clot in one of these arteries can block the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Then the heart stops working right. If the block lasts for many minutes, part of the heart can be injured.
The risk of a heart attack gets higher as you get older. Plaques (patches of cholesterol) may form in the arteries. The plaques can break open and form a blood clot. The blood clot can block blood flow to the heart. Plaque also makes the arteries narrower inside. Blood clots may form more easily in a narrowed artery and block it.
Both men and women have heart attacks.
You can have a heart attack when you are resting or when you are exercising. You may think you just have an upset stomach. However, it's important to get medical help as soon as you can. If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 911 right away. Don't wait.
The healthcare provider checks you over. He or she will ask what you are feeling and about your medical history. You may have some tests to see how well your heart is working. You may have blood tests to see if there has been any heart damage.
You may stay in the hospital about 2 to 6 days.
Get specific instructions from your healthcare provider on how to take care of yourself when you have chest pain, including:
Getting help right away when you are having a heart attack improves your chances of staying alive. It may also help keep your heart from being damaged.