Heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when the interior passage of a coronary artery, usually already narrowed by atherosclerosis, becomes completely blocked due to a blood clot or arterial plaque. Part of the heart muscle dies in the process due to oxygen deprivation, giving rise to the crushing chest pain characteristic of a heart attack.
While chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack, this life-threatening event may present itself in diverse ways among different patients. For instance, in diabetic patients, heart attacks are generally silent without any accompanying chest pain.
Some of the other physical symptoms which a heart attack victim may complain of are:
Caregivers and family members of cardiac patients should also be alert to a sudden and complete loss of responsiveness on the patient’s part as well as a cessation of signs of circulation, as these may likewise be warning signs of a heart attack.
The timing of treatment is critical for heart attack victims because their chances of survival decrease rapidly with every passing minute. When the heart stops beating, brain damage sets in after 3 minutes, and death is virtually certain if no resuscitation is given to the victim within the first 10 minutes. In this respect, knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a valuable asset, especially where caregivers and family members of patients at high risk of having a heart attack are concerned.