Acute Myocardial Infarction

Acute myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, is defined as permanent damage to the heart muscle (the myocardium) resulting from a reduced flow of oxygenated blood.

The heart works as a muscular pump, beating continuously to pump blood to itself through the coronary arteries to provide the continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients necessary for sustaining life.

Coronary artery blood flow can be slowed when the arteries become narrowed by plaque formation – similar to the buildup of rust in a pipe, and cessation of flow for more than a few minutes causes irreversible damage to cardiac tissue and a reduction in heart function.

A reduction or cessation of blood flow can also affect the tissue in the heart that transmits the electrical signals for the heart to pump, causing an irregular heartbeat from the disrupted signal, or a complete lack of blood flow to the vital organs, which results in fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

For all mammals, the end of life occurs when the heart stops beating following cardiac arrhythmia secondary to a reduced oxygen supply to the heart. Life expectancy, however, can be significantly increased when the risk factors for cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary diseases, such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, and poorly controlled diabetes, among others are addressed and controlled.

© James F. Lineback MD FCCP; April, 2016.