Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)

  • Medical Author:
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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What is the treatment for heart attack?

The American College of Cardiology Foundation (ACCF) and the American Heart Association (AHA) task force recommends a treatment guideline that they consider as a preferred strategy to treat heart attacks; PCI (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention) or stenting is emphasized. For details about PCI, please see reference 2.

The 2013 ACCF/AHA guidelines for treatment of a heart attack are summarized as follows:

  1. Ideally, transport patient to a PCI capable hospital; if not PCI capable, transfer patient as soon as possible and less than 120 min; if anticipated transfer is more than 120 min, give fibrinolytic agent within 30 min of arrival
  2. Send to cath lab
  3. Diagnostic angiogram
  4. PCI (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention) also termed stenting or stent placement
  5. If reocclusion occurs or perfusion fails in a patient given a fibrinolytic, arrange transfer to a PCI capable facility; for other patients treated with a fibrinolytic, transfer to a PCI facility within about 3-24hrs
  6. If step 5 occurs, step 3 should follow at a PCI capable facility were either medical therapy, a PCI or a CABG should be done Patients who are not candidates for PCI therapy usually undergo medical or surgical (CABG) therapy. For a more detailed presentation of the medical treatments and CABG, read the heart attack treatment article.

What are the risk factors for heart attack in women?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attacks are erroneously believed to occur primarily in men. Although it is true that the prevalence of CAD among women is lower before menopause, the risk of CAD rises in women after menopause. At age 75, a woman's risk for CAD is equal to that of a man's. CAD is the leading cause of death and disability in women after menopause. In fact, a 50-year-old woman faces a 46% risk of developing CAD and a 31% risk of dying from coronary artery disease. In contrast, her probability of contracting and dying from breast cancer is 10% and 3%, respectively.

The risk factors for developing CAD in women are the same as in men and include:

  • increased blood cholesterol,
  • high blood pressure,
  • smoking cigarettes,
  • diabetes mellitus, and a
  • family history of coronary heart disease at a young age.

Smoking cigarettes

Even "light" smoking raises the risk of CAD. In one study, middle-aged women who smoked one to 14 cigarettes per day had a twofold increase in strokes (caused by atherosclerosis of the arteries to the brain) whereas those who smoked more than 25 cigarettes per day had a risk of stroke 3.7 fold higher than that of nonsmoking women. Furthermore, the combination of smoking and the use of birth control pills increase the risk of heart attacks even further, especially in women over 35.

Quitting smoking immediately begins to reduce the risk of heart attacks. The risk gradually returns to the same risk of nonsmoking women after several years of not smoking.

Cholesterol treatment guidelines in women

Current NCEP (National Cholesterol Education Program) treatment guidelines for undesirable cholesterol levels are the same for women as for men.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/29/2015

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