FIND A DOCTOR
Click here to read more about heart attacks.
A heart attack happens when the blood supply to your heart is blocked. This blockage is usually caused by buildup of a substance in your coronary artery. This substance is called plaque. The coronary artery carries oxygenated blood to the heart. Plaque can break up into the blood and cause a clot. The clot may cause an irregular heartbeat which reduces the heart’s ability to pump effectively.
Untreated, a heart attack causes death because the heart cannot survive without its oxygen supply.
If you think you may be having a heart attack, it is crucial to seek help immediately. Call 911 within the first 5 minutes of the start of symptoms. Do not drive yourself to the hospital; take an ambulance to ensure more immediate care. If nitroglycerin pills are available and have been prescribed, take 1.
Recovery from a heart attack includes certain lifestyle changes to prevent further blockage, as well as a physical rehabilitation program.
Diagnosis of a heart attack is based on observation of symptoms, personal and family medical histories and multiple tests. Some of the tests often used to diagnose a heart attack are:
- EKG (Electrocardiogram): A test that detects and records the electrical activity of your heart.
- Blood Tests: Testing that reveals proteins that are released into the blood as cells in the heart die.
- Coronary Angiography: An x-ray exam of the heart and blood vessels that shows blockages. A dye injected into your bloodstream makes blockages visible on the x-ray.
Common symptoms include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Discomfort in the upper body - arms, shoulder, neck, back
- Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lightheadedness, sweating
In many cases, symptoms for women can be different. A woman experiencing a heart attack is more likely to feel pain in the stomach, back or jaw. She is also more prone to nausea and vomiting than a man. Women also may have shortness of breath and cold sweat while having a heart attack.
Treatments are usually started right away for a person who may be having a heart attack. Typical treatments include oxygen therapy, aspirin, nitroglycerin pills and pain relief for chest pain. It is urgent that we promptly assess the need to restore blood flow.
Following immediate treatment, an ongoing regimen of medication may be necessary. Additionally, several procedures are available for prompt restoration of bloodflow to the heart:
A nonsurgical procedure in which a thin, flexible tube (catheter) with a balloon on the end is placed inside a blood vessel and inflated to widen the inside of the artery and clear the way for bloodflow. A stent may be inserted to keep the artery open.
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
A surgical procedure in which arteries or veins are taken from other parts of the body and stitched to other arteries or veins, allowing bloodflow to bypass the blocked arteries.