A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. If blood flow isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die.
Heart attacks are a leading killer of both men and women in the United States. The good news is that excellent treatments are available for heart attacks. These treatments can save lives and prevent disabilities.
Heart attacks most often occur as a result of coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease. CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque (plak) builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart.
When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis (ath-er-o-skler-O-sis). The buildup of plaque occurs over many years.
Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture (break open) inside of an artery. This causes a blood clot to form on the plaque's surface. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery.
If the blockage isn't treated quickly, the portion of heart muscle fed by the artery begins to die. Healthy heart tissue is replaced with scar tissue. This heart damage may not be obvious, or it may cause severe or long-lasting problems.
Get help quickly! Each year, about 1.2 million people in the United States have heart attacks, and many of them die. CHD, which often results in heart attacks, is the leading killer of both men and women in the United States. Jackson-Madison County General Hospital offers an Accredited Chest Pain Center to intervene early and quickly in a heart attack event. It is also a member of the West Tennessee Heart Network, which is a network of emergency rooms and first responders throughout West Tennessee who are all dedicating resources and efforts to acting quickly in the event of a heart attack.
Many more people could survive or recover better from heart attacks if they got help faster. Of the people who die from heart attacks, about half die within an hour of the first symptoms and before they reach the hospital.