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Heart Attack

The heart is surrounded by three major coronary arteries that supply it with blood and oxygen. If a blood clot develops in one of these arteries, the blood supply to that area of the heart muscle will stop. This is known as a coronary thrombosis, a myocardial infarction or heart attack.

Most commonly a coronary thrombosis will cause severe chest pains behind the sternum (breast bone), often radiating towards the left arm. The area of muscle to which there is insufficient supply stops working properly if the blood clot is not dissolved quickly, eg with thrombosis dissolving (thrombolytic) medication.

Coronary thrombosis, which usually takes place in the coronary arteries, frequently develops at the site of an atherosclerotic plaque rupture. Most people in the developed world have atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in some parts of their body, without ever noticing it. Atherosclerosis may start around the age of 20 and develops gradually with increasing age.

Some people have symptoms of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries which shows up as angina (pains in the chest). Conversely, plaque rupture leading to a coronary thrombosis often occurs in someone with no previous history of angina.

It is the lining of the artery supplying the heart muscle that forms an atherosclerotic plaque. This diseased area of the coronary artery can, if it ruptures, develop a blood clot on it, comprising blood clotting proteins, platelets and red blood cells. This formation has the potential to seal off the blood supply.
Risk factors

Numerous 'risk factors' are known to be associated with the development of coronary thrombosis. These include:
a family history of atherosclerosis
a high content of cholesterol in the blood
hypertension (high blood pressure)
smoking
male gender
if you suffer from diabetes Type 1 or Type 2
being overweight
stress
Lack of exercise.

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