Myocardial infarction or heart attack: causes, symptoms, treatment

A myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack, occurs when there is a sudden serious shortage of oxygen in a part of the heart muscle. This causes the muscle cells in that part to die. Heart attacks are one of the leading causes of death in the Western world. Over the last fifty years, the number of people dying from a heart attack has decreased. This is due to better treatment methods and also because people are more aware that a healthier life greatly reduces the risk of a heart attack. What are the causes of a heart attack. What are the symptoms and how can a heart attack be treated? How is the diagnosis made and what is the prognosis?

Article content

  • Heart attack
  • Causes of myocardial infarction
  • How do you notice a heart attack/what are the symptoms of a heart attack?
  • What to do with the above complaints?
  • Myocardial infarction in someone who was already familiar with chest pain/angina pectoris
  • A silent infarction
  • Diagnosis of myocardial infarction
  • Complications of myocardial infarction
  • Treatment of myocardial infarction
  • Prognosis of myocardial infarction
  • Important!

Heart attack

Myocardial infarction, heart attack, myocardial infarction : there is a reduced supply of blood to the heart muscle due to a blocked coronary artery . The risk of a heart attack increases with age. Until the age of sixty, a heart attack occurs more often in men, after which men and women have an equal chance. You see that heart attacks occur in certain families. Risk factors for having a heart attack are: smoking, not enough exercise, too much fatty food and too much weight.

Causes of myocardial infarction

Coronary artery disease is often the cause. The coronary arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to the heart are narrowed. This is usually due to atherosclerosis. Fat droplets (for example cholesterol) adhere to the wall of the veins. They form deposits, which are covered with a fibrous layer. This layer can become rough or even break. If platelets adhere to the surface, a blood clot is formed. With a large blood clot, the blood flow may completely stagnate, resulting in a myocardial infarction/heart attack. If you have many people in your family who suffer from coronary heart disease, you are more likely to have a heart attack. Especially if there are family members who developed coronary artery disease or a heart attack before the age of fifty-five.

How do you notice a heart attack/what are the symptoms of a heart attack?

The following complaints usually occur suddenly:

  • An intense, heavy and oppressive pain in the center of the chest;
  • The pain may radiate to the jaws and arms, especially the left arm;
  • Becoming pale/white in the face;
  • Perspire;
  • Becoming short of breath;
  • A feeling of nausea and sometimes vomiting;
  • Someone can become anxious, sometimes also afraid of dying;
  • A feeling of restlessness may occur.

What to do with the above complaints?

If you notice the above symptoms, you should think of a heart attack and see a doctor immediately . Do not wait at all, waiting a little before seeking medical help can be disastrous. An ambulance with all the trimmings is the best means of transport to the hospital, as necessary actions may be required along the way.

Myocardial infarction in someone who was already familiar with chest pain/angina pectoris

If you are familiar with chest pain associated with angina pectoris, a heart attack can manifest itself in other complaints. Then the pain may be more severe at the time of a heart attack and may also persist at rest. If an attack of angina pectoris does not respond to current treatment or lasts longer than ten minutes, it may indicate a heart attack. Notify a doctor immediately!

A silent infarction

  • One in five people has no complaints of chest pain during a heart attack.
  • Symptoms may occur such as a lack of breath, a feeling of dizziness, sweating and becoming pale.
  • This type of infarction mainly occurs in people with diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure. It also occurs more often later in life.

Diagnosis of myocardial infarction

The diagnosis can usually be made easily with an ECG. The electrical activity of the heart is recorded. In the event of a myocardial infarction, changes will be seen that indicate a myocardial infarction. It can usually be seen which part and how much of the heart muscle is damaged and whether the rhythm of the heart is still normal or irregular. The diagnosis can be confirmed by blood tests for certain substances that enter the blood from the damaged heart muscle.

Complications of myocardial infarction

The first hours and days after a heart attack are exciting. For example, a cardiac arrhythmia (which can be life-threatening) and cardiac arrest can occur . Whether other complications may arise depends on the location and extent of the damage to the heart muscle. Heart failure can occur: the heart cannot pump sufficiently vigorously in the weeks or months after the heart attack. There may also be a feeling of fatigue, shortness of breath, and the ankles may be swollen. Less common complications are: damage to one of the heart valves and pericarditis. These conditions can lead to heart failure.

Treatment of myocardial infarction

Very important are reducing pain and restoring the blood supply to the heart muscle . The damage must be limited and the risk of complications must be reduced. In the emergency cardiac department, heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing will be constantly monitored. In the first six hours after the heart attack, you may be given thrombolytics to dissolve the blood clot that is blocking the coronary artery. It can also be decided to perform angioplasty immediately. If recovery goes well, you can get out of bed after 24 to 48 hours. Shortly afterwards you can participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program and you can get out of bed more and more. If you have recovered from a heart attack, the coronary arteries and heart muscle will be examined. An ECG and echocardiography can be used to determine the best follow-up treatment. If the heart does not pump well enough, medication can be given, and if one of the coronary arteries is narrowed, bypass surgery can be chosen. If the heart rate is too slow, it may be decided to insert a pacemaker. You will be prescribed the necessary medications, for example to reduce the risk of having another heart attack. A diet can be prescribed, cholesterol-lowering agents.

Prognosis of myocardial infarction

If you have had a heart attack for the first time and it was treated quickly and no complications occurred, then the future prospects are good. Two weeks after a heart attack, the risk of a new heart attack is significantly reduced. Things will look even better if you quit smoking, exercise regularly and eat healthy food. If you have had a heart attack before, the prospects depend on the extent to which the heart muscle has been damaged and any complications that have occurred.


Most people will worry about their health after experiencing a heart attack. Mild depression is common. However, it is important that you do not let yourself be guided too much by the fear of having another heart attack. Many hospitals offer rehabilitation programs to give people the opportunity to regain confidence in their own bodies. It can also be nice to share experiences with others.