The Heart: What Causes a Person to Go into a Cardiac Arrest?
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The Heart: What Causes a Person to Go into a Cardiac Arrest?

This article will focus on what happens during a heart attack. When the heart suddenly stops beating, this is called a cardiac arrest. The heart is a four chambered pump. Its job is to move oxygenated blood throughout the body and remove deoxygenated blood from the body and deliver it to the lungs to blow off carbon dioxide and pick up oxygen. During a heart attack the heart stops pumping blood through the body and the lungs stop ventilating the body.

The medical term for a heart attack is called a myocardial infarction. The word myocardial breaks down into two parts: myo and cardialMyo stands for muscle and cardial stands for heart. Thus, it means heart muscle. The word infarction refers to the death of a portion of the heart muscle. When necrosis (death) happens to a heart muscle, that muscle is useless. There are many possible causes of heart disease. Some people succumb to sudden death due to a heart attack and without any history of heart disease.

Heart disease can happen to anyone of any age. One of my classmates died suddenly at school. He wasn’t even sick. He had a school physical like everyone else did. He was given a clean bill of health so he could run track. He started running track and dropped dead from a cardiac arrest before completing the first lap. He was 13 years old.

What causes a heart attack?

As mentioned above, there are several possible causes for a heart attack to occur. We will discuss these below.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) – This is a condition of the coronary arteries which is characterized by a buildup of plaque in the lumen (on the inside of the arteries). When plaque – a buildup of blood fat (cholesterol), calcium and proteins – collect and stick to the inner wall of the arteries. The buildup of plaque causes the lumen to narrow and it gets harder for the blood to flow. Eventually, when the plaque buildup gets thick enough a blockage will form and the heart muscle will not get blood flow and it will die. This is called a myocardial infarction due to coronary artery disease.

Spasms of the coronary artery – Some people will suffer from spasms of their coronary artery. When the artery spasms it clamps down and slows down or even blocks the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Spasms of the coronary arteries can manifest in people with no history of heart disease. When blood cannot flow through the artery to deliver oxygen rich blood to the heart muscles, it is called ischemia. Prolonged ischemia can put a person at risk for having a heart attack.

Pulmonary embolus – A heart attack can result when a blood clot or a piece of plaque breaks off from its place of origin (stuck to the inner wall a blood vessel) and enters circulation. Blood clots will often form around plaque because the blood flow is impeded and the blood begins to clot around it. When the embolus gets stuck in one of the smaller blood vessels in one of the lungs, it can stop the respiration process which will in turn starve the heart for oxygen and a heart attack could result.


This article has focused on some of the most common causes of heart attacks. The next article will focus on the symptoms of a heart attack. Would you know what to do if you saw someone go into cardiac arrest? We will discuss this in a future article.


Cardiac Arrest

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Comments (3)

An excellent article on the causes of heart attack.Thanks.

You are most welcomed, Rama.

excellent article as always