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Lutheran Medical Center

Heart Attack

When every minute matters, we’re ready with expert emergency heart care and the latest technology. We move quickly to minimize damage and offer rehab services to help prevent further cardiac issues.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. A heart attack is a medical emergency, and fast action can save your life.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is when the blood flow to the heart has stopped long enough that your heart is either damaged or dead. Blockages in the heart’s arteries that limit the amount of blood going to the heart are commonly caused by a build-up of plaque. This hard substance made up mostly of cholesterol, calcium and proteins, sticks to the walls of your arteries.

Heart attacks occur in one of two ways:

  • When build-up in the arteries almost completely blocks the flow of oxygen and blood into the heart;
  • When platelets in the blood surround a lone piece of plaque, causing a clot to form in the artery.

People often confuse heart attacks and cardiac arrest. They are not the same. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and unexpectedly stops beating altogether. The cause of cardiac arrest often is an electrical malfunction in the heart’s electrical current, causing an irregular heartbeat, resulting in a disruption to the blood flow to your brain, lungs and other vital organs.

Most heart attacks do not lead to cardiac arrest. But when cardiac arrest occurs, a heart attack is a common cause. Conditions such as atrial fibrillation (afib) or arrhythmia also may cause a disruption to the heart’s rhythm and lead to cardiac arrest.

How we diagnose heart attacks

We use a number of screenings to identify and diagnose heart attacks.

Learn more about heart attacks and how to respond to a heart attack.

How we treat heart attack

Because 85 percent of heart muscle damage occurs in the first two hours of a heart attack, time is critical. Our rapid “door-to-treatment” times increase your chances of recovery during a cardiac event. When appropriate, our interventional cardiologists offer non-invasive treatments so you have a shorter recovery time.

We may treat your heart attack with:

  • Angioplasty/stenting – Our physicians guide a small balloon to the clogged artery and inflate it to re-open the artery. They then insert a stent, a small mesh coil, into the artery to keep it open so blood can flow freely.
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) – Surgeons use a piece of healthy blood vessel, usually from the leg or wrist, to bypass a blocked portion of coronary artery that is reducing blood flow to the heart. Learn about heart surgery options.
  • Prescription medications like blood-thinners, nitroglycerin and ACE inhibitors.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or pressure. Also known as angina, this pain may be felt only in the chest or it may be felt in the areas surrounding the chest – like your arm or neck. Angina may be as mild as a case of indigestion or as severe as the feeling of a heavy weight sitting on your chest. This pain may go away and come back.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Coughing
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nauseas and/or vomiting

Heart attacks in women

Many women experience the most common heart attack symptom – chest pain or discomfort – when they are having a heart attack. But women are more likely than men to experience some of the other symptoms. Take special note if you are experiencing shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Learn about heart attacks and women.

Chest Pain Center accreditation

A number of our hospitals are accredited as Chest Pain Centers by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. Accredited Chest Pain Centers have achieved a higher level of care for heart attack symptoms and provide more efficient, effective and faster evaluation and care when you need it most in the emergency room. Research also shows that Chest Pain Centers reduce mortality rates by 37 percent.

Learn more about Chest Center Accreditation.

Cardiac rehabilitation

Care does not stop once we treat your heart attack. Our physicians and nurses work seamlessly with our cardiac rehabilitation team to provide you with a personalized plan to get you back to the activities and people you love.

Learn more about our cardiac rehabilitation program.

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