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What Are The Causes of a Heart Attack?

Heart Attack

Heart Attack , also known as myocardial infarctions (MI), occur through blockage to the blood supply of the heart, essentially depriving it of oxygen. This is because it is defined as death in heart tissue from the lack of blood supply and so can cause lasting damage to the heart muscle. This, therefore, creates the need for an early identification of symptoms and seeking medical attention on time so that further complications of an attack are avoided. This article will discuss the causes of heart attacks together with its symptoms and available treatment options.

Causes of Heart Attack

A heart attack is when a part of the heart muscle is injured or it dies of deprivation of sufficient supply of oxygen. The obstruction that occurs in the coronary arteries interferes with blood and oxygen movement to the heart thus lacking regular replenishment hence resulting in the development of a heart attack if no prompt is done.

Coronary artery disease is the major cause of a heart attack, as with atherosclerosis, the deposition of plaque inside the arteries is possible. When dissipated, this wax-like substance tends to accumulate leisurely and pushes into the blood causing clotting of blood. Such clots either block or partially block the blood flow to the heart, which leads to a lack of oxygen into the heart muscle and slow death of the tissue under consideration. Heart attacks can be defined as myocardial infarctions and can emanate from various causes. The major causes include:


Smoking is among the leading risk factors for heart attacks. Chemicals contained in tobacco can wound blood vessels, so plaque forms to make the arteries narrow or get clogged. This narrows blood vessels for the blood flow to the heart, hence increasing the eventualities of a heart attack. Additionally, smoking also reduces oxygen in the blood thereby overworking the heart.


Individuals with diabetes face a higher risk of experiencing a heart attack. The excess sugar, up and about in the blood, damages the blood vessels as well as nerves that are controlling the heart, prompting an increased tendency of coronary artery disease. Additionally, diabetes usually comes with other risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure that increase the chances of experiencing a heart attack.

High Cholesterol

This kind of blood cholesterol can build up plaque on the walls of arteries, narrowing them and therefore reducing the flow to the heart. This increases the possibility of a heart attack. So it is very important to keep a healthy level of cholesterol in the body by controlling the intake of products containing cholesterol and taking regular exercise.

High Blood Pressure

Chronic high blood pressure over time, also called hypertension, can do quite a bit of damage to both the heart and blood vessels. The major concern is that with time, chronic elevation of high blood pressure will weaken the heart muscle and this might lay the ground for coronary artery disease. Managing blood pressure through lifestyle changes and medication is essential in reducing the risk of heart attacks.

High Blood Sugar

Uncontrolled high blood sugar, commonly observed in people suffering from diabetes, can lead to severe damage of the blood vessels and cause heart attacks. Hence, that makes it extremely important for patients with diabetes to keep their blood sugar stable by medications, as well as through diet and exercise to lower the instances of cardiovascular complications.

Family History of Heart Attack

In case if there is a family history of getting heart attacks, risks can increase a lot. For example, suppose parents, siblings and other close relatives have been suffering from heart attacks. In that condition, he or she needs to be very watchful about controlling other risk factors so that the chances of getting the attack can decrease.


Members of certain races such as African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and native Hawaiians are more prone to heart attacks. The high incidence rates reported among them may be due to genetic factors that predispose them to the disease, lack of access to proper healthcare facilities, and lifestyle choices. Those at higher risk from these populations should be aware and take respective measures to ensure good heart health.

Exercises for Inactivity

Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviors lead to an increased risk of heart attacks. Regular exercising would improve cardiovascular health, and strengthen the heart muscle while keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels healthy. Regular physical activities like brisk walking, jogging, or cycling can reduce heart attack risk.


Chronic stress and intense emotional suffering can damage the heart. Stress releases hormones that may increase blood pressure, accelerate one’s heart rate, and even cause a heart attack. Effective stress management, including learning relaxation exercises as well as mindfulness, is able to reduce this risk factor.


Obesity is one of the largest risks of suffering from heart attacks. Being overweight stresses the heart and increases its tendency to develop problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels. A well-balanced diet along with exercise to maintain a healthy weight would be critical in reducing these heart attack risks.


Though heart attack is common among males, it is the number one leading cause of death for American women in their category. Women tend to develop heart disease later in life as compared to men, and often after they have undergone menopause. The hormonal influence along with additional risk factors like hypertension and diabetes leads to increased vulnerability. Women need to recognize the unique factors, which put them at risk, and medical intervention needs to be sought correctly.


Less Common Causes of Heart Attacks

Less common other causes of heart attacks include severe spasms or tightening of a coronary artery. These can happen on arteries that do not have plaque build-up besides the usual risk factors as outlined above. While the exact cause of spasms is not well understood, they are believed to be related to certain factors:

1) Cigarette smoking

2) Taking specific drugs, like cocaine

3) Exposure to extreme cold

4) Severe emotional stress or pain

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Symptoms of a heart attack may be different in various people. The most common symptoms are:

  • Discomfort pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the middle of the chest
  • Pain spreading to the neck, shoulders, or arms
  • Heartburn or choking feeling
  • Sweating, upset stomach, vomiting, or dizziness
  • Weakness, anxiety, tiredness, or shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat (heart palpitations)


Don’t forget that women and people assigned female at birth may have different symptoms than men. They may have unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or lightheadedness, discomfort in the gut, and pain in the neck, shoulder, or upper back as their heart attack symptoms.

Understanding Silent Heart Attacks

Sometimes such an episode goes unnoticed in the form of silent heart attacks where there are no obvious signs or symptoms of a disease. Patients with diabetes are at more risk of such an episode. Under such constant monitoring and regular check-ups, this is essential as silent heart attacks would still otherwise cause lasting damage to the heart.

Diagnosing a Heart Attack

Tests for Diagnosing a Heart Attack

Some of the tests that health professionals can carry out to diagnose that one has had a heart attack include the following:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test measures the electrical activity of the heart, and it can show how much damage there is on the muscle of the heart.
  • Blood tests: These measure levels of cardiac enzymes and troponins that will increase the damage or injury of heart muscle.
  • Echocardiography: This test takes photographs of the heart making ultrasound pictures to check how well is the heart muscle squeezing and detect any possible abnormality.
  • Cardiac catheterization: The placement of a catheter in the blood vessel and dye being put in to see blockages of coronary arteries.
  • Stress test: Treadmill tests or radionuclide scans as part of this second examination could be considered to evaluate how the heart responds to physical activity that shows potential high-risk areas of a second myocardial infarction.

Treatment for Heart Attacks

Early treatment for heart attack is given in order to restore blood flow and prevent muscle damage. This includes the following:

  • Medications: Aspirin, clot-preventing drugs that interfere with blood clotting, as well as other medicines to stabilize the plaque, increase the function of the heart, and reduce symptoms.
  • Coronary angioplasty and stenting: Dilating the place of blockage through a balloon catheter and keeping it open by placing a stent inside.
  • Bypass surgery: In any serious scenario, graft one’s blood vessels are used to create passages for blood from which the heart can be bypassed through some other arteries.


Recognize heart attack signs, seek immediate help, and adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle to prevent and manage attacks. Understanding causes, symptoms, and treatments empowers control over heart health. In case of symptoms, call emergency services promptly. Stay proactive, consult healthcare professionals for personalized care.

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Modern Heart and Vascular, a preventive cardiology medical practice, has several offices around Houston. We have locations in Humble, Cleveland, The Woodlands, Katy, and Livingston.

We are Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, a diagnostic and preventative medicine cardiology practice.

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At the Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, we offer state-of-the-art cardiovascular care with innovative diagnostic tools and compassionate patient care. Our priority at Modern Heart and Vascular Institute is prevention. We help patients lead healthier lives by avoiding unnecessary procedures and surgeries.

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This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.

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