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What is a Heart Attack?
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A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is the most extreme form of heart muscle pain and signals that a portion of your heart is dying. Usually a blockage of fatty deposits, or plaque, in a heart artery reduces or cuts off the blood and oxygen to a certain portion of your heart. Or a small piece of plaque can break off and a blood clot will form around it in the artery, shutting off the blood and oxygen. Either way, without oxygen this portion of your heart muscle begins to die - this is the pain of a heart attack.
To prevent death or severe heart damage, doctors can administer blood thinning or clot-dissolving medicines or perform an angioplasty procedure that removes arterial blockages, among other treatments. Getting to the hospital quickly is the best insurance for staying alive and saving your heart. Also, if experiencing heart attack symptoms, crush or chew a full-strength aspirin (swallow with a glass of water) to prevent further blood clotting.

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the nearly 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease. Our programs are made possible by donations, grants and corporate partnerships.

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a founding partner of The Heart Truth Red Dress campaign. The Heart Truth and Red Dress are trademarks of HHS.