Heart Attack Types

Published: February 5, 2012

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Heart attacks occur when a blockage prevents the heart from receiving enough oxygen. As a result, the heart cells will begin to die, causing symptoms of chest pain, anxiety, dizziness, and nausea that vary in severity. Heart attacks can occur as a result of blockages in the left coronary artery, right coronary artery, or both. These blockages can be partial or complete.

Coronary Arteries

The right coronary artery carries blood to the right side of the heart, which includes the right atrium and the right ventricle, parts of the left side of the heart, and parts of the heart that control heart rhythm.

The left coronary artery controls the left side of the heart, which includes the left atrium and left ventricle, in addition to the wall that divides the right and left parts of the heart.

Plaque builds up in these coronaries and may rupture, resulting in clot formation. The result is a blockage caused by clots.

Non-Q Wave Heart Attack

This type of heart attack occurs when one or both of the coronary arteries experience a partial blockage that remains in place for a long time. Over time, this blockage causes an angina in addition to a non-q wave heart attack. An electrocardiogram will show a unique pattern that indicates that a non-q wave heart attack has occurred. A non-q wave heart attack can also occur if a blood vessel is completely blocked for a short or long period of time, especially if other blood vessels are providing a supply of blood to the heart.

Q-Wave Heart Attack

A q-wave heart attack is named for the "q" pattern that it forms on an electrocardiogram (ECG). If one of the coronary arties is blocked for a long amount of time and the blood flow supplied by the surrounding blood vessels is not enough, then the blockage will cause a q-wave heart attack, which can cause the muscle cells throughout the heart muscle wall to die.

Other Types

Other types of heart attacks occur among people who are young and without risk factors for coronary blockages. Coronary emboli occur when a large mass such as a clot, tumor, or infection causes a blockage. Some people can develop clots as a result of injury or genetics. Other heart attack triggers include birth defects and coronary artery spasms. Someone with a condition that thickens the blood is also at risk for developing a heart attack.

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