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Heart Attack Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. www.nhlbi.nih.gov A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a section of heart muscle becomes blocked. If the flow of blood isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle becomes damaged from lack of oxygen and begins to die.
In Coronary Artery Disease, a fatty material called plaque builds up over many years on the inside walls of the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to your heart). Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture, causing a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the part of the heart muscle fed by the artery.
Once the flow of blood is blocked, a heart attack will happen when a part of the heart muscle becomes damaged.
After a heart attack, if the blockage is not treated and removed within a few hours, the damaged heart muscle will begin to die and be replaced by scar tissue. LifeART Collection Images Copyright © 1989-2001 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD Plaque in artery Blood Clot blocks artery Blood flow Blood Clot Dead heart muscle Coronary artery