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Heart attack

Read about the causes of heart attacks. Heart attacks are caused by the blood supply to the heart being suddenly interrupted, usually by a blood clot

Heart attacks are caused by the blood supply to the heart being suddenly interrupted. Without this supply, heart muscles may be damaged and begin to die.

Without treatment, the heart muscles will experience irreversible damage.

If a large portion of the heart is damaged in this way, the heart stops beating (known as a cardiac arrest), resulting in death.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of heart attacks. CHD is a condition in which the coronary arteries (the major blood vessels that supply the heart with blood) get clogged up with deposits of cholesterol. These deposits are called plaques.

Before a heart attack, one of the plaques ruptures (bursts), causing a blood clot to develop at the site of the rupture. The clot may block the supply of blood to the heart, triggering a heart attack.

Your risk of developing CHD is increased by:

Read about the causes of CHD.

Less common causes

Some less common causes are described below.

Drug misuse

Stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines (speed) and methamphetamines (crystal meth) can cause coronary arteries to narrow, restricting blood supply and triggering a heart attack.

Heart attacks from the use of cocaine are one of the most common causes of sudden death in young people.

Lack of oxygen in the blood (hypoxia)

If levels of oxygen in the blood decrease due to carbon monoxide poisoning or a loss of normal lung function, the heart will receive un-oxygenated blood.

This will result in the heart muscles being damaged, triggering a heart attack.


Angina
Angina is chest pain caused by a reduced flow of blood to the heart, typically resulting from heart disease.
Artery
Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Blood
Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by the body found in blood and tissue. It is used to make bile acid, hormones and vitamin D.
Heart
The heart is a muscular organ that pumps blood around the body.
Heart attack,
A heart attack happens when there is a blockage in one of the arteries in the heart.
Heart bypass
A heart (coronary) bypass is surgery to redirect the flow of blood around a clogged artery, by creating a new pathway for blood to travel in.
High blood pressure
Hypertension is when the pressure of the blood in your bloodstream is regularly above 140/90 mmHG.
Obese
Obesity is when a person has an abnormally high amount of body fat.
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