Heart Attack Basics
Heart Attack Treatment and Prevention
The heart care team at Mountain States Health Alliance wants to help you understand your heart attack. Being informed about the events before, during and after your heart attack will help prepare you and your family for surgery and recovery.
What Is a Heart Attack?
This process is commonly referred to as a "heart attack" or myocardial infarction (MI). This damage can occur in a matter of minutes. These blockages may be caused by a build up of fat, cholesterol and other substances. You may hear these blockages referred to as plaque. When one of the plaques breaks open, a blood clot forms, blocking necessary blood flow to the heart muscle and the muscle begins to die. Damage increases the longer an artery remains blocked. Once that muscle dies, permanent heart damage occurs.
What does a heart attack feel like?
Some of the most common symptoms are:
Chest pain or discomfort
Pain in the upper body such as neck, jaw, upper back or arms
A squeezing feeling or tightness in the chest
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Nausea or vomiting
Dizziness or light-headedness
As with men, a woman’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to experience extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and/or vomiting and back or jaw pain.
What should I do if I think I’m having a heart attack?
Call for help. Call 911 or the rescue squad right away. Do not drive yourself. Early treatment within the first few hours of a heart attack can save your life. It can also reduce the damage caused by the heart attack.
What will happen when I arrive at the hospital?
Heart Attack Treatment
When you arrive having the symptoms of a heart attack, emergency care is delivered immediately. You will be taken to a room for an examination. While this is occurring, you will be connected to a heart monitor and an electrocardiogram (EKG) will be obtained. This procedure is painless and allows us to monitor and assess the heart’s electrical activity. It may also assist in determining the extent of damage from the heart attack.
You may have an IV inserted into a vein in your arm. This procedure allows us to draw blood as well as give medications that may be necessary to your heart attack treatment. While in the hospital, you may have an oxygen cannula or a mask to deliver supplemental oxygen. Keep in mind that many of these procedures are occurring at once.
What other tests may be performed?
Cardiac enzymes and troponins
When heart damage occurs, the body releases enzymes. These enzymes will rise and fall throughout the heart attack. We will perform these tests every few hours for several days. These tests can assist the physician in determining when the damage has stopped.
Your doctor may determine that a cardiac catheterization is necessary. This procedure is performed in the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. While here, a spot in your groin or your arm will be numbed and a small tube (sheath) will be placed in an artery. A catheter is then threaded through this sheath and contrast or dye is injected. This test allows your doctor to actually see images of your heart and blood vessels. The images will show the amount of blockage in the heart arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle.
Heart Attack Symptoms