(also known as "MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION")
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The proper use of the non-medical term "heart attack" is "Myocardial Infarction". Either term is scary. "Myocardial Infarction" (abbreviated as "MI") means there is death of some of the muscle cells of the heart as a result of a lack of supply of oxygen and other nutrients. This lack of supply is caused by closure of the artery ("coronary artery") that supplies that particular part of the heart muscle with blood. This occurs 98% of the time from the process of arteriosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries") in coronary vessels.
Although it once was felt that most heart attacks were caused from the slow closure of an artery, say from 90 or 95% to 100%, it is now clear that this process can occur in even minor blockages where there is rupture of the cholesterol plaque. This in turn causes blood clotting within the artery, blocking the flow of blood. This sort of event is illustrated above. The heart muscle which is injured in this way can cause irregular rhythms which can be fatal, even when there is enough muscle left to pump plenty of blood. When the injured area heals, it will leave a scar. While the heart won't be able to pump quite as much as before, there is often plenty of good muscle left to take care of the job, and recovery can be quite complete.
While heart attacks are clearly scary, with modern techniques, patients survive most of them. Furthermore, most can have a long and satisfying life, perhaps more satisfying than before. To learn more, click "Tell Me More".
©COPY 1997 HeartPoint
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