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Tulane Doctors ~ Heart & Vascular Institute ~ Heart Attack

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Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction, M.I., Chest Pain)

When the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart become blocked, the heart will no longer be able to receive an adequate supply of oxygen. This oxygen supply is critical to the survival of heart muscle tissue. The shortage of oxygen results in damaged or dead heart muscle tissues, a condition known as a Myocardial Infarction or Heart Attack.


The most common symptom of a Heart Attack is CHEST PAIN. The pain may remain in one place or may move from the chest to the jaw, back, arms, teeth, neck or belly. The pain can be severe or mild but usually lasts longer than twenty minutes. Some people have described the pain as follows:


  • A tight band around the chest
  • Bad indigestion
  • Something heavy sitting on your chest
  • Squeezing or heavy pressure

Some people, particularly the elderly, people with diabetes and women, may feel no chest pain at all and may or may not have unusual symptoms.


Many heart attacks are the result of a blood clot blocking one of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries supply blood and oxygen to the heart. When the blood flow is blocked, the heart muscle is damaged or dies from the lack of oxygen. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds up in the walls of the coronary arteries. The plaque contains cholesterol and other types of cells. A heart attack can occur as a result of blockages from plaque build-up or from tears in the plaque which then form blood clots which can then block the arteries.