Dr. Hundae on Atrial fibrillation
Your heart muscle needs oxygen to survive. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely.
View an animation of blood flow between the heart and lungs.
This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood flow can become narrowed from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque. This slow process is known as atherosclerosis.
When plaque within a heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque. This blood clot can block the blood flow through the artery to the heart muscle.
Ischemia results when the heart muscle is starved for oxygen and nutrients. When damage or death of part of the heart muscle occurs as a result of ischemia, it’s called a heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI).
About every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.
So you’ve never heard of an acute coronary syndrome. But what about heart attack, or unstable angina? Those well-known conditions are both acute coronary syndromes, an umbrella term for situations where the blood supplied to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked.
“This is an absolute medical emergency. Something dramatic, right this minute is going on in the arteries that is hurting the blood flow to the heart,” said Ann Bolger, M.D., a cardiologist at San Francisco General Hospital and a member of the American Heart Association’s Council on Clinical Cardiology.
The blockage can be sudden and complete, or it can come and go – clot, break open, then clot again. “In either case, the heart tissue is dying, even if it’s just a few cells or a whole big section of the heart,” Bolger said.
Doctors use the broad term regularly, but usually only among themselves and in the medical literature. “It’s like describing a North American state rather than just saying Texas,” Bolger said. “I don’t think too many doctors say, ‘You’re having an acute coronary syndrome.’ They say, ‘You’re having a heart attack.”
Angina is chest pain or discomfort caused when your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. It may feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. The discomfort also can occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Angina pain may even feel like indigestion.
But, angina is not a disease. It is a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary heart disease (CHD).There are many types of angina, including microvascular angina, Prinzmetal’s angina, stable angina, unstable angina and variant angina. View an animation of angina(link opens in new window).
This usually happens because one or more of the coronary arteries is narrowed or blocked, also called ischemia.
Angina can also be a symptom of coronary microvascular disease (MVD). This is heart disease that affects the heart’s smallest coronary arteries and is more likely to affect women than men. Coronary MVD also is called cardiac syndrome X and non-obstructive CHD. Learn more about angina in women.
Depending on the type of angina you have, there are many factors that can trigger angina pain. The symptoms also vary based on the type of angina you have.
The term “heart failure” makes it sound like the heart is no longer working at all and there’s nothing that can be done. Actually, heart failure means that the heart isn’t pumping as well as it should be. Congestive heart failure is a type of heart failure that requires seeking timely medical attention, although sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably.
Your body depends on the heart’s pumping action to deliver oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the body’s cells. When the cells are nourished properly, the body can function normally. With heart failure, the weakened heart can’t supply the cells with enough blood. This results in fatigue and shortness of breath and some people have coughing. Everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries can become very difficult.
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Cardiac catheterization (cardiac cath or heart cath) is a procedure to examine how well your heart is working. A thin, hollow tube called a catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel that leads to your heart. View an illustration of cardiac catheterizatio.
A small battery-operated device that helps the heart beat in a regular rhythm. There are two parts: a generator and wires (leads).
The generator is a small battery-powered unit.
It produces the electrical impulses that stimulate your heart to beat.
The generator may be implanted under your skin through a small incision.
The generator is connected to your heart through tiny wires that are implanted at the same time.
The impulses flow through these leads to your heart and are timed to flow at regular intervals just as impulses from your heart’s natural pacemaker would.
Some pacemakers are external and temporary, not surgically implanted.