Latest information reveals more about dangerous type of heart attack

A Feb. 15, 2022 report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states that acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is responsible for the hospitalizations of one million Americans each year and seven million individuals throughout the world. The sudden reduction in blood that reaches the heart which characterizes ACS creates a high probability of a severe type of heart attack referred to as STEMI, or ST-elevation myocardial infarction.

Those admitted with STEMI heart attacks represent 38% of ACS cases in the United States each year. That amounts to approximately 280,000 people.

STEMI heart attack

Many cardiologists and institutions recognize that STEMI is the deadliest form of heart attack because of the permanent damage it can cause to the heart. Some heart attacks block obstructions, even up to 80% to 90%. A STEMI heart attack blocks the artery 100%. During the time the artery is completely blocked, severe and potentially deadly damage to the heart muscle may begin. The Louisville, Kentucky-based Baptist Health System reports that damage can be established within a matter of hours after the attack.

Complications magnified by STEMI include stroke, arrythmias of the heart, heart failure and the possibility of subsequent heart attacks. Statistics indicate that around 220,000 people have repeat heart attacks each year in the US The Cleveland Clinic reports that death may occur within thirty days among between 2.5% and 10% of those who have STEMI heart attacks. Restoring blood flow through catherization is critical in preventing or minimizing the degree of permanent damage to the heart.


According to JAMA, chest pain at rest is the most common symptom, affecting 79% of men and 74% of women diagnosed with STEMI. Among symptoms other than severe chest pain while an individual is at rest that may signal a STEMI attack, heart attack symptoms can include chest pain while not at rest. Other heart attack symptoms are breathing difficulty, including shortness of breath and stomach pain that may feel similar to indigestion. Perspiration, nausea, heart palpitations, dizziness and fainting may also be heart attack signs, as can feelings of anxiety.

Chest pain or the sensation that may feel like indigestion appear less frequently for women than men. Women more often report insomnia, pain that circulates throughout the back, jaw neck, arms or stomach and vomiting or nausea.

Contributing factors

As with all heart attacks, certain risk factors are hereditary or caused by medical conditions. Others are the result of controllable actions. Risk increases with age. Men ages 50 and older are more likely to have STEMI heart attacks, as are women over the age of 51, the average age for menopause. Genetic conditions, such as a family history of heart trouble, and congenital issues, such medical conditions present at birth, contribute.

Factors that can be controlled include tobacco, drug and alcohol use, diet and exercise. Additionally, medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity or high cholesterol should be treated with proper medical care. Prescribed medications that may affect heart rate and other cardiovascular circumstances should also be monitored.

Untreated infections, such as salmonella and syphilis, have also been associated with STEMI heart attacks. Stress management is also recommended in the prevention of heart attacks.

The importance of rapid treatment

The recent JAMA report concludes that coronary catheterization within two hours of presenting symptoms shows a reduction in death probability. According to Georgia-based Piedmont Healthcare, the national average of the length of time between the reporting of a STEMI heart attack and the beginning of catheterization is approximately ninety minutes. University of Michigan Health has developed a streamlined emergency response strategy for STEMI heart attack patients. Paramedics are trained to identify STEMI symptoms and transport patients directly to facilities designed to treat ACS patients, called Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) Centers, such as MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland. The patients are then taken into catheterization quickly to begin treatment. Beginning the catherization process allows blood flow to the heart to return as soon as possible.

After the initial treatment, medications including statins, beta-blockers and anti-coagulants may be prescribed. If severe artery blockage has occurred, surgery may also be necessary.

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Omar P. Haqqani is the Chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Vascular Health Clinics in Midland.