Your heart needs blood and oxygen to work properly. The right and left coronary arteries carry blood to the heart muscle to ensure that it gets enough oxygen and other nutrients.
Coronary heart disease is usually caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries by the build–up of fatty deposits (plaque) on the walls of these blood vessels.
A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, is when part of the heart muscle dies because it has been starved of oxygen by a blockage in a coronary artery.
Most of these occur when the fatty deposits in the coronary artery rupture and trigger the formation of a blood clot. A blockage may also result from a spasm or sudden narrowing of a coronary artery.
The symptoms of a heart attack vary from person to person but can include:
- A pain, heaviness or discomfort in the chest which can spread or radiate to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach.
- The pain is usually severe and lasts longer than 15 minutes.
- The pain can be accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, sweating, dizziness or a general feeling of illness.
Unlike angina, pain associated with a heart attack is not usually relieved by rest or nitrate sprays, such as GTN (Glyceryl Trinitrate).
Some people may feel pain only in their arm, neck, jaw, back or stomach. In others the chest pain can be mistaken for indigestion, so sometimes people are unaware that they have had a heart attack.
For more information download our Heart Attack Leaflet