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Causes of Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)

Delve into the multifaceted causes behind myocardial infarction, shedding light on the diverse factors that contribute to heart attacks.

  • 21 Nov 2023
  • 3 min read

A heart attack, often referred to as a myocardial infarction in medical terms, happens when the coronary arteries become clogged with fat, cholesterol, and other substances, severely restricting or blocking blood flow to the heart. This deposit is called plaque, and the process of its formation is called atherosclerosis. In some circumstances, these plaques may burst, triggering the formation of a clot that restricts blood flow to some sections of the heart muscle, damaging or killing it. Coronary artery disease is one of the major causes of heart attack.

The ability to preserve cardiac function and save lives depends significantly on prompt intervention. Early detection of any possible causes of heart attack and quick medical intervention are essential for improved outcomes.


How is Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction) Caused?

Following are some of the causes of myocardial infarction

  1. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD):
  • This is one of the leading causes of heart attack
  • It involves the blockage of one or more coronary arteries as a result of plaque formation.
  • Due to the deposition of plaques, arteries become narrower, reduce blood flow to the heart, and become a cause of myocardial infarction.
  • The rupture of a plaque can lead to the development of a blood clot inside the heart, which poses a severe risk.
  • This clot may stop blood flow and result in a heart attack.
  • The prevalence of CAD highlights the essentiality of early detection and preventive measures in lowering the risk of heart attacks.


  1. Coronary Artery Spasm:
  • Coronary artery spasm involves the intense squeezing of an unblocked blood vessel.
  • It often happens in arteries that already have cholesterol plaques or that are in the early stages of hardening due to smoking.
  • This condition is also referred to as Prinzmetal's angina, vasospastic angina, or variant angina.
  • During a spasm, the artery narrows significantly, even when there is no blockage from plaque, and temporarily reduces the blood flow to the heart.
  • This can lead to chest pain or angina.
  • Recognising and managing coronary artery spasms is essential to prevent potential heart complications and discomfort.


  1. Infections:
  • Several viral diseases, including COVID-19, can affect the heart muscle.
  • People who already have heart issues are particularly in danger.
  • Heart attacks may result from the stress caused by infections or inflammation of the heart.
  • The virus or illness may adversely impact cardiovascular health or worsen current problems.
  • For those with underlying heart issues, monitoring and treating heart health during infections is critical.
  • Early detection and medical intervention can lower the risk of heart attacks and improve the prognosis for those who experience them.


  1. Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD):
  • One of the coronary arteries, which feed blood to the heart, might tear, causing the dangerous condition known as SCAD.
  • The natural blood flow may be obstructed by this tear, possibly leading to a heart attack.
  • SCAD is not very common but fatal and is one of the causes of myocardial infarction.
  • It frequently affects younger people, especially women, and may not always be a result of the traditional heart disease risk factors.
  • While the precise causes of SCAD are not yet fully known, it is crucial to be aware of its symptoms, such as chest pain, and to get quick medical help for a diagnosis and treatment to avoid serious heart issues.

Also read:

Heart Attack Risk Factors:

Heart attack risk factors include:

  1. Age:
  • Heart attacks are more common in males and women over the age of 55 and 45, respectively.


  1. Use of tobacco:
  • Risk is increased by smoking or passive smoking.


  1. High Blood Pressure:
  • Over time, having high blood pressure levels harm the heart arteries.
  • The risk increases when hypertension is present, along with other disorders like diabetes, high cholesterol, or obesity.


  1. High Cholesterol or Triglycerides:
  • Both conditions increase the chance of having a heart attack by narrowing arteries.
  • This risk diminishes if we have enough of the "good" HDL cholesterol.


  1. Obesity:
  • Obesity raises the risk of heart attack by being associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, raised triglycerides, and unhealthy cholesterol levels.


  1. Diabetes:
  • Heart attacks are more likely when blood sugar is not well controlled.


  1. Family History:
  • Having a family history of heart attacks at a young age (before age 55 for men and 65 for women) increases your risk.


  1. Unhealthy Diet:

The risk of myocardial infarction is increased by diets high in sugars, animal fats, processed foods, trans fats, and salt. Choose healthy oils, fibre, fruits, and veggies.


  1. Stress:

Extreme emotional stress, such as rage, might raise the risk of having a heart attack.



Maintaining heart health requires identifying and managing heart attack risk factors. Age, lifestyle, family history, and underlying medical issues are just a few of the risk factors for heart attacks. People can take proactive measures to lower their risk by adopting a healthy lifestyle, treating medical conditions timely, and seeking preventive treatment.

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