What is a Heart Attack?

How It Happens The heart pumps blood enriched with oxygen and vital nutrients throughout the entire body by way of a network of arteries. The heart's muscular walls, also called the myocardium, must also be supplied with oxygen-rich blood in order to perform its job.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the myocardium is blocked due to fatty material building up in the arteries and eventually closing them off. This process is called atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries." As a result, the heart becomes badly damaged due to tissue death from lack of oxygen.

Common Symptoms

  • Chest Pain, usually radiating toward the left shoulder and arm. The arm may be tingling or numb.
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Cold sweats, shortness of breath and lightheadedness
  • Feeling of indigestion
  • Dizziness, weakness, and fainting
  • Abdominal pain

If you believe you are experiencing a heart attack, call 911 or contact your emergency response system immediately. Learn more about heart attack symptoms.