What is acute myocardial infarction?

Acute myocardial infarction or heart attack is a life-threatening condition which occurs once the blood flow to the heart is suddenly disrupted. This is usually the result of an obstruction in one or several of the coronary arteries. Remember that a blockage can occur due to the accumulation of plaque which is a substance comprised of cholesterol, fat and cellular waste products.

If an individual is suspected of having a heart attack, call for emergency assistance right away.


Even though the characteristic indications of a heart attack include chest pain and shortness of breath, the symptoms tend to vary. The common indications include:


Chest pain or in the jaw, back and other areas in the upper body that lasts more than a few minutes or settles and returns.

  • Tightness or pressure in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or in the jaw, back and other areas in the upper body that lasts more than a few minutes or settles and returns
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat

Who are at risk for acute myocardial infarction?

There are certain factors that heightens the risk for having an acute myocardial infarction such as:

  • High blood pressure – this results to arterial damage and hastens the buildup of plaque
  • High levels of cholesterol – the cholesterol can be lowered with dietary changes or using medications such as statins
  • Increased levels of triglycerides – this is a type of fat that blocks the arteries that comes from foods eaten. It travels throughout the bloodstream until stored in the body, usually in the fat cells. Some of these triglycerides linger in the arteries and contributes to the buildup of plaque.
  • Obesity – the condition is linked with various conditions that heightens the risk for heart attack such as high cholesterol or triglycerides, diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Diabetes and high blood sugar – the elevated blood sugar in the body can impair the blood vessels that eventually result to coronary artery disease
  • Smoking
  • Age
  • Family history

Other contributing factors include lack of exercise, stress, history of preeclampsia and using illegal drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine.


An individual suspected with acute myocardial infarction requires immediate treatment in the emergency department. Angioplasty which is a surgical procedure is done to unblock the arteries supplying blood to the heart.

During the procedure, the surgeon inserts a thin, long tube (catheter) via the artery to reach the blockage. A small balloon which is attached to the catheter is inflated to reopen the artery, thus allowing the blood to flow. A small, mesh tube or stent might be placed at the site of the blockage which prevents the artery from closing again.

There are also various medications that are given to manage a heart attack such as:

  • Blood thinners such as aspirin which breaks up any blood clots and improve the flow of blood through the constricted arteries
  • Antiplatelet drugs to prevent blood clots
  • Thrombolytics work by dissolving the clots
  • Nitroglycerin works by widening the blood vessels
  • Beta-blockers are given to lower the blood pressure and allow the heart muscle to relax
  • ACE inhibitors work by lowering the blood pressure and minimize strain on the heart
  • Pain medications to reduce any discomfort

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on acute myocardial infarction is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage circulatory emergencies by taking a standard first aid course with Winnipeg First Aid.


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