In this post, I’ll explain what Heart Attack is, in simple sentences and with pictures. I’ll also briefly mention about Cardiac Arrest and Heart Failure.
Before I tell you what a heart attack is, it is important to understand the following:
- Plaque and
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
What Is Heart?
Heart is a powerful muscular organ responsible for pumping blood through arteries and veins.
Arteries and Veins
Arteries and Veins are both blood vessels. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the body and veins carry oxygen-poor blood from the body to the heart for re-oxygenation.
The heart itself needs oxygenated blood for heart muscles to work. If the heart muscles don’t get oxygen rich blood, they die.
Let me repeat that sentence again -- If the heart muscles don’t get oxygen rich blood, they die. So, remember this.
What Is Plaque?1
Plaque is made up of deposits of cholesterol and other substances in the artery.
Plaque buildup causes the inside of the arteries to narrow over time, which can partially or totally block the blood flow. This process is called atherosclerosis.
Picture Source & Caption1 : https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
What Is Coronary Artery Disease?2
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease in the United States. It is sometimes called coronary heart disease or ischemic heart disease.
For some people, the first sign of CAD is a heart attack.
What Causes Coronary Artery Disease?3
Coronary artery disease is caused by plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart (called coronary arteries) and other parts of the body.
Picture Source and2,3 : https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/coronary_ad.htm
What Is A Heart Attack?
The following steps shows you what causes heart attack and what it is.
1. Plaques form in the artery.
2. And one day, these plaques break into smaller pieces.
3. Blood starts to clot on these broken plaque pieces and grows, blocking blood flow in the arteries.
4. Because of the blocked arteries, part of the heart muscles does not get Oxygen.
5.The heart muscles that don’t get oxygen die. This death of heart muscles is called myocardial infarction or heart attack.
Heart Attack Steps
In short, Heart Attack happens because:
- Plaques form in the artery.
- One day these plaques break into smaller pieces.
- Blood starts to clot on these broken plaque pieces and grows, blocking blood flow in the arteries.
- Because of the blocked arteries, part of the heart muscles does not get Oxygen.
- The heart muscles that don’t get oxygen die. This death of heart muscles is called myocardial infarction or heart attack.
Hope you understood what heart attack is and how it is caused.
Let us see briefly what cardiac arrest and heart failure is.
What Is Cardiac Arrest?
Cardiac arrest is the stopping of the heart. This can happen, if enough of the heart muscles die and the heart stops pumping.
The heart has to be revived so that it can start ticking. Otherwise, the person passes away.
For more details about heart failure, check NIH’s (National Institutes of Health) website:
I saw a nice picture showing the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack in twitter.
Check this link:
In the picture in above link, they mention:
Cardiac arrest is an electrical problem of heart and Heart attack is a plumbing problem of heart.
What Is Heart Failure?
Heart failure happens when the heart is not able to pump enough blood for the body’s needs. This is an indicator for a future heart attack or cardiac arrest.
For more details about heart failure, check CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/heart_failure.htm
You now know about heart attack, cardiac arrest, heart failure.
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Watch the following videos from Khan Academy to understand about Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest and Heart failure.
Heart attack (myocardial infarction) diagnosis
Heart Disease and Heart Attacks
This post about heart attack, cardiac arrest, heart failure was written by Senthil Natarajan.