What Is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart. Heart attacks don’t always happen the way we expect; symptoms can vary from person to person. You may not experience sudden, crushing chest pain. In fact, women may not experience any chest pain at all. For the sake of your heart, familiarize yourself with common heart attack symptoms so you can seek help immediately.
Heart attack symptoms: Time is muscle
The most common symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Any upper body pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
Other symptoms may include jaw pain, fatigue, nausea, sweating and sudden dizziness.
If you or a loved one may be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Do not attempt to drive to the hospital. By calling 911, the hospital can better prepare for your arrival by activating a team that can reestablish blood flow to your heart muscle quickly. The sooner you seek medical help, the higher your chances of a successful outcome.
Studies have shown that opening a blockage within 90 minutes of the onset of symptoms reduces damage to the heart muscle. CHI Franciscan cardiologists are able to open blockages within 90 minutes for almost 100 percent of our patients.
Treatment: What to expect
If you or your loved one experience a heart attack, knowing what to expect can help you stay calm and focused. Here’s what will happen if you come to a CHI Franciscan emergency room with heart attack symptoms:
- You’ll be taken to a specially equipped room called a cardiac catheterization suite, where you’ll be treated by an interventional cardiologist, a heart specialist who treats heart attack patients and those at high-risk.
- Your doctor will study your vascular health (blood vessels) using catheters and imaging to determine if you have blocked arteries.
- Your doctor will decide whether to perform a procedure called an angioplasty. An angioplasty uses a balloon to open the blocked arteries supplying blood to your heart. We may also insert stents to help the arteries stay open.
- Refer you to a cardiac surgeon, if necessary.
Heart attack prevention
Whether you’ve had a heart attack or you’re at high risk, prevention is crucial to preserving your heart muscle and function. Live a heart-healthy lifestyle, including following a healthy diet, losing weight if you need to, staying active and quitting smoking. Learn more about our ongoing support and resources, designed to promote optimal heart health. Work with your doctor to manage related conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Recovering from a heart attack
After a heart attack, your cardiologist will recommend the best course of action to ensure your recovery and continued health. If you have any lingering heart issues, such as heart disease or valve disease, he or she can suggest treatment for your specific needs. Medications may include blood thinners to help prevent blood clots, diuretics to help your body get rid of excess fluid and other drugs to lower your blood pressure and relieve the stress on your heart.
Your doctor may recommend coronary bypass surgery, where a cardiac surgeon uses a healthy vein from a donor site in your body and to create a new pathway for blood to move around a blockage.
Your doctor may also recommend a medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation program. Our program provides you with targeted strategies for lifestyle changes, emotional counseling, stress management, exercise training, medication and managing your risk factors. Through these strategies, we help you return to your normal activities and move past the emotional distress of having a heart attack.
Your Heart Care Team
When Do You Need a Heart Specialist?
Your First Cardiology Visit
Recovering from Heart Surgery
Accepted Insurance Plans
Conditions We Treat
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Arrhythmias and Atrial Fibrillation
Chest Pain (Angina)
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Heart Valve Disease
> Heart Attack
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Why Choose Us for Heart Care?
Heart Health: Prevention and Support