Myocardial infarction (a heart attack) occurs when cardiac muscle cells are deprived of oxygen. The muscle cells become damaged and potentially die. This condition is most commonly caused by a blockage in the coronary artery, as either, a plaque develops directly within the blood vessel or a blood clot breaks off inside another blood vessel and becomes stuck within the coronary artery. This reduces the volume of oxygenated blood that reaches the cardiac tissue (Ischemia). In the absence of oxygen, the heart muscle begins to undergo necrosis.
Symptoms include chest pains, shortness of breath and nausea. Risk of a myocardial infarction developing is linked to age, family history, smoking and most notably in recent years diets containing high amounts of saturated fats and salt. Treatments after a myocardial infarction include thrombolytics (“clot-busting” drugs) and special procedures, such as angioplasty, where the coronary artery is mechanically widened or coronary artery bypass surgery where an artery or vein is taken from elsewhere within the patient and grafted onto the coronary artery.