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Understanding the Causes of Heart Attacks

A myocardial infarction — also known as a heart attack — occurs when the flow of oxygenated blood to a portion of the heart through one or more of the coronary arteries becomes blocked for an extended period of time. These blockages starve the heart of oxygen, causing a cardiac ischemia. If this condition persists too long, heart tissue will begin to die in areas connected to the blocked artery, causing a myocardial infarction — literally “death of heart muscle”.

Symptoms vary for each myocardial infarction patient. While 25 percent of all heart attack victims report no symptoms, many experience some or all of the following symptoms over a span of several hours: 

  • A feeling in the arms or chest of pain, tightness, pressure, or a squeezing feeling that spreads to the back, neck, jaw, and upper stomach 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, or abdominal pain
  • Fatigue

If symptoms of a myocardial infarction are present, it is critical to seek medical attention immediately. Complications of a heart attack include heart failure, arrhythmias, heart rupture, and valve problems. Heart attacks can be fatal and are the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. One in four deaths every year can be attributed to a heart attack. Medications used for treatment include aspirin, thrombolytics, and antiplatelet agents. A doctor may also perform a coronary angioplasty and stenting procedure or coronary artery bypass surgery, both of which help open the blocked artery(s) and restore blood flow to the heart.

At Tampa General Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute, our heart and vascular specialists can provide treatment for cardiac conditions like heart failure and heart disease. With 77,000 square-feet of dedicated space, the heart and vascular institute has six cardiac catheterization laboratories, eight cardiac surgery rooms (plus one hybrid room), and seven interventional radiology suites.

Tampa General Hospital has proudly been named one of America's Best Hospitals for Cardiology & Heart Surgery and the highest-ranked hospital for the same specialty by U.S. News & World Report for 2020-2021.