A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked, most often due to a build-up of fat, cholesterol or other substance that forms plaque in the coronary arteries (the arteries that feed the heart). A heart attack can also be caused by a blood clot that ruptures and blocks blood flow and oxygen to the heart.
When blood flow to the heart is interrupted, part of the heart muscle can become permanently damaged or destroyed.
Heart attack risk factors include advanced age, gender (overall, men have a greater risk of heart attack), family history of heart disease, unhealthy cholesterol levels, unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, alcohol consumption, diabetes and smoking.
Heart Attack Treatment at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center
The Frankel Cardiovascular Center offers the latest technologies for the treatment of heart attack. For example, our cardiac surgeons use a stent that is coated with a slowly released drug to prevent a repaired blood vessel from becoming blocked again.
We also offer cutting-edge assist technologies that help maintain blood supply to the heart during angioplasty, a procedure to open a blocked artery.
Symptoms and severity of a heart attack vary from person to person. For some, a heart attack can strike suddenly, with no warning signs. Others may experience symptoms ranging from mild to intense, including:
- Discomfort in the chest area
- Recurrent chest or abdominal pain or pressure that comes on with exertion and stops at rest
- Pain or discomfort in the arm, back or neck, typically on the left side
- Difficulty breathing, either with exertion or at rest
- Dizziness, loss of consciousness, jaw or arm pain
Women are more likely to experience more subtle heart attack symptoms such as:
- Back or stomach pain
- Cold sweat
- Jaw and/or neck pain
Tests to diagnose a heart attack include both non-invasive and invasive testing. These include:
Electrocardiogram (ECG): An electrocardiogram records electrical signals as they travel through the heart. An injured heart muscle does not conduct electrical impulses normally and may indicate a heart attack has occurred or is in progress.
Blood tests: Can reveal certain heart proteins that leak into the blood after heart damage from a heart attack.
Chest X-ray: Reveals the size of the heart and blood vessels and can detect fluid in the lungs.
Echocardiogram: Using ultrasound, an echocardiogram creates images of the moving heart, including how its chambers and valves are pumping blood and whether the heart has been damaged.
Cardiac CT or MRI: Tests that create images of the heart and chest to diagnose heart problems, including the extent of damage from a heart attack.
Medications to treat a heart attack include:
Aspirin blood clotting and help maintain blood flow through a narrowed artery.
Thrombolytics, also known as clot-busters, help dissolve a blood clot that is blocking blood flow to the heart. An IV or injected medication known as heparin makes blood less likely to form clots.
Nitroglycerin is used to treat chest pain and can help improve blood flow to the heart by widening blood vessels.
Beta blockers and ACE inhibitors help relax the heart muscle, slow the heartbeat and decrease blood pressure to help limit damage to the heart muscle damage and prevent future heart attacks.
Statins help control blood cholesterol, often responsible for the development of blockages in arteries.
Surgical procedures may also be needed to treat a heart attack and might include:
Cardiac catheterization is a test in which thin plastic catheters are inserted through an artery in the groin to take pressure measurements inside the heart and to inject dye so pictures of the heart can be taken to identify blockages.
Angioplasty and stenting is a minimally invasive procedure in which a catheter-guided balloon is used to open a narrowed coronary artery. A stent is then placed in the artery to expand and hold it open.
Coronary artery bypass grafting is a procedure in which a healthy vein or artery from another part of the body is joined to the blocked coronary artery, allowing blood flow to bypass the blockage and allow oxygen-rich blood to reach the heart muscle.
Make an Appointment
To schedule an appointment to discuss your need for care for a heart attack or any other heart condition, call us at 888-287-1082. Visit our Make a Cardiovascular Appointment page for more information about what to expect when you call.