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Acute Coronary Syndrome


You’ve never heard of an acute coronary syndrome? But what about heart attack, or unstable angina? Those well-known conditions are both acute coronary syndromes, an umbrella term for situations where the blood supplied to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked. 
Acute Coronary Syndrome is a name given to three types of coronary artery disease that are associated with sudden rupture of plaque inside the coronary artery: 
  • Unstable angina 
  • Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction or heart attack (NSTEMI) 
  • ST segment elevation myocardial infarction or heart attack (STEMI). 
The location of the blockage, the length of time that blood flow is blocked and the amount of damage that occurs determines the type of acute coronary syndrome. These life-threatening conditions require emergency medical care. 
Acute coronary syndrome often causes severe chest pain or discomfort. It is a medical emergency that requires prompt diagnosis and care. Treatment goals include improving blood flow, treating complications and preventing future problems.

What are the symptoms? 
Chest pain or discomfort may immediately signal to you that something’s wrong with your heart. Other symptoms, however, may leave you unsure of what’s wrong. Take note of these common signs of an acute coronary syndrome: 
  • Chest pain or discomfort, which may involve pressure, tightness or fullness 
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the jaw, neck, back or stomach 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded 
  • Nausea 
  • Sweating 
While chest pain or discomfort is the most common symptom associated with acute coronary syndrome, signs and symptoms may vary significantly depending on your age, sex and other medical conditions. People who are more likely to have signs and symptoms without chest pain or discomfort are women, older adults and people with diabetes. 
These symptoms should be taken seriously. If you experience chest pain or other symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.  

Chest pain caused by acute coronary syndromes can come on suddenly, as is the case with a heart attack. Other times, the pain can be unpredictable or get worse even with rest, both hallmark symptoms of unstable angina. People who experience chronic chest pain resulting from years of cholesterol buildup in their arteries can develop an acute coronary syndrome if a blood clot forms on top of the plaque buildup.

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