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Heart Injury

The main cause of damage to the heart tissue is heart attacks. A heart attack is an interruption of heart beats caused by damage to heart tissue cells.

Clot in blood vessel
Inside a blood vessel, a bursting plaque is surrounded by cells attempting to heal it!

What causes a heart attack?
The main cause of heart attacks is a build up of plaque in the blood vessels that supply the heart with blood. This plaque is made up of protein, calcium and a fat called cholesterol. Poor diet is one of the main causes of plaque build-up, but a number of other things contribute to the problem. Smoking, obesity, and even some inherited traits can increase a person’s risk of having detrimental plaque build-up. Plaque build-up also occurs in other blood vessels and causes other problems. For instance, plaque build up in the blood vessels that lead to the brain could cause a stroke.

Plaque becomes especially dangerous when it builds up to the point that it bursts. The thin fibrous cap that covers the plaque ruptures, exposing the cholesterol and other contents to the blood that flows through the capillary or other blood vessel. Blood cells treat the burst plaque as if it were broken tissue and create a blood clot in an attempt to heal the plaque deposit. When the blood cells clot, they block the flow of the other cells within the vessel.

If the blood vessels that feed the heart with blood become blocked by a clot, the heart cells that they supported don’t receive oxygen and nutrients, so they die. Now, remember how all the sections of the heart muscle beat in a coordinated way? When one area of cells dies suddenly, it can affect the whole muscle and the heart can briefly stop.

The damage caused by a heart attack doesn’t affect only the heart. If the heart stops even for a brief period of time, then during that period of time blood isn’t being pumped tp other tissues that need oxygen and nutrients. Without a constant supply of blood, oxygen, and nutrients, the cells within other tissues can also begin to die.

After a heart attack, the body cannot replace the dead heart tissue with new heart tissue because it only makes a very small number of new heart cells very slowly. Instead, it forms scar tissue on the heart. Scar tissue is a weaker and more disorganized version of the original tissue. Although the heart can return to its normal function, it is now weaker because there is less tissue and may beat irregularly.

            Frighteningly, heart attacks are the leading cause of death around the world. In order to fight this statistic, doctors and organizations are showing people that taking simple preventative measures could reduce their risk of heart attack. Measures include exercising regularly, eating healthily, and cutting down on bad habits such as smoking and drinking excessively. Doctors are targeting adults in their forties and fifties because older people are at a greater risk of having a heart attack. 


A build up of plaque in the blood vessels that supply the heart with blood can cause a heart attack.

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