Myocardial Infarction Causes

The causes of myocardial infarction, or a heart attack, all involve some kind of blockage of one or more of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries provide the heart with oxygenated blood, and if they become blocked, the heart will become oxygen starved, killing heart tissue and causing a heart attack.

The following are the three main causes of myocardial infarction:

  • Atherosclerosis – Also known as coronary artery disease, this condition is the most common cause of heart attacks and occurs when the buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances forms plaque on the walls of the coronary arteries. If one of these plaques rupture, a blood clot will form on top of the ruptured plaque like a scab. A blood clot that is large enough can completely block the flow of blood through an artery, triggering a heart attack.
  • Coronary artery spasm – A rare cause of blockage, spasms of the coronary arteries can cause them to become temporarily constricted. This constriction can block blood flow to the heart and cause a heart attack if it lasts long enough.
  • Coronary artery tear – Also known as a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, a tear in a coronary artery can prevent blood from reaching the heart and cause a heart attack.

Risk factors that can contribute to the development of coronary artery blockages include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, illicit drug use, obesity, and stress.

At Tampa General Hospital, recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of America's Best Hospitals for Cardiology & Heart Surgery, our heart and vascular specialists can provide treatment for the causes of myocardial infarction at our 77,000 square-foot cardiovascular center. With six cardiac catheterization laboratories, seven interventional radiology suites, and eight cardiac surgery operating rooms, our physicians use advanced equipment and technology to diagnosis and provide treatment for all causes of a heart attack.