Inside A Heart Attack......

By shoulders Latest Reply 2011-08-10 22:48:07 -0500
Started 2011-08-09 22:10:46 -0500

Your arteries become damaged from things like high blood pressure or smoking. When arteries are damaged, cholesterol can build up on the artery walls. This is called atherosclerosis. When this buildup hardens, its called plaque. Plaque buildup narrows the areteries and restricts blood flow. If plaque cracks or ruptures, a blood clot can form and block blood flow to the heart. When an artery gets blocked by a clot, blood and oxygen can't get to all parts of your heart. This causes a Heart Attack.

1 reply

HeartHawk 2011-08-10 22:48:07 -0500 Report


The scary part is that most heart attacks occur in arteries that would never cause you to fail a stress test or might even fool a catherization. That is why I am a big believer in heart scans as the definitive test for early stage coronary artery disease (CAD).

The cause is something called the Glagov Effect. As your arteries begin to become diseased they actually grow outward to maintain the inside diameter of your arteries so blood flow can continue. It is not until the later stages of CAD that actual narrowing occurs.

Most heart attacks occur at these wide open sites when the fibrous plaque cap that forms on the artery inner surface (not unlike a scab on a wound) ruptures allowing blood to contact the fats, cholesterol and macrophages that form the plaque core. Blood begins to clot just like at a wound site and if the clot gets large enough ito completely blocks the artery then - BOOM - you have a heart attack.

You may, in fact, have had many small plaque ruptures that heal over and begin to narrow the artery without completely closing it off until it, finally, one more rupture is enough to complete close it off or partially close it such that symptoms appear (like angina or a failed stress test). Also, you may be taking anti-clotting drugs (like aspirin or Plavix) that prevent appreciable clotting from ever occurring. There are other therapies that some believe keep the plaque from ever rupturing.

The fact is, you can have severe CAD and live a long life free from heart attack as long as you don't have ruptures. You can read more about this theory and the SHAPE guidelines here.


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