A heart attack is when the flow of blood to a section of the heart becomes blocked and the heart can't get oxygen.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Without blood and the oxygen it carries, part of the heart starts to die. The level of damage depends on how long blood supply is cut off. The result can be mild damage, or it could lead to severe, lifelong problems.

Many people confuse the terms heart attack and cardiac arrest. They are not the same.

Learn about the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Common symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms
  • Light-headedness or sudden weakness
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

Learn more about the symptoms of a heart attack.

What are the causes of a heart attack?

More than nine out of 10 heart attacks are caused by atherosclerosis. A heart attack can also be caused by a coronary artery spasm, which is a temporary tightening of a coronary artery that can cause blood flow to stop.

Learn more about the causes of a heart attack.

How is a heart attack diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your medical history and may order the following tests:

What treatment is available for a heart attack?

Your doctor may treat your condition with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

Surgery options include angioplasty or bypass surgery.


The following resources have information about the signs, causes, diagnosis and treatment for a heart attack: