Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but many heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Don't wait too long before getting help. Here are the common signs of a heart attack:

What To Do

Quick treatment minimizes heart muscle damage and can save your life!

Clinical Definition

A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood through a coronary artery is completely blocked. Most of the time, a heart attack causes permanent damage to your heart muscle, which is why it's also called a myocardial infarction or MI. Myocardial means "heart muscle," and infarction means "tissue death".

Most heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease (CAD), the buildup of a material called plaque in the coronary arteries. This buildup can eventually block the flow of blood in the artery. Plaque buildup can also rupture, causing blood clots that block the artery. A less common cause of heart attack is a spasm in the artery.

The pain from a heart attack (shown below in red and orange) is usually severe and prolonged.


Heart Attack In Depth

Learn more about heart attack from Intermountain's Patient Education Library:

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Detecting and Diagnosing a Heart Attack

electroencephalography EEG


An electrocardiogram is a procedure that records the electrical activity of the heart.

Treating Heart Attacks



Angioplasty opens a blood vessel by inflating a small balloon inside it.


Stent Placement

Stent placement is a wire stainless steel tube that holds an artery open.


Bypass Surgery

Bypass or coronary artery bypass surgery uses a vein or artery to bypass a coronary artery.