Heart Attack Symptoms & Care

Every 34 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies from heart disease, making it America’s No. 1 killer. If you or someone you know has risk factors for heart disease, it’s important to learn all you can about heart attack, including the warning signs.

heart rhythm strip

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart becomes blocked, often by a blood clot. This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood slowly become thicker and harder from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances called plaque.

If the plaque breaks open, and a blood clot forms that blocks the blood flow, a heart attack occurs. The heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. Once the muscle dies, permanent heart damage occurs.

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

  • Chest discomfort
  • Pain, spreading to the jaw, neck, shoulders or arm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Indigestion or gas-like pain
  • Dizziness
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  • Discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades

If you or someone you’re with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other warning signs, call 911 immediately and get to a hospital.

Calling 911 triggers a special response team at Silver Cross. If the emergency personnel determine that you’re having a special type of heart attack (ST-elevation myocardial infarction, referred to as STEMI), a code STEMI is initiated. This code will activate our team of cardiologists, nurses, and technologists to take care of you with state of the art equipment and treatments. Every second counts when it comes to your heart, and at Silver Cross we exceed the national average for treating heart attack patients by almost 30 minutes!

Heart Attack Treatment

The type of heart attack you experience will determine the treatment. The blockage might be complete or partial.

Common Treatments for Heart Attack

Angioplasty & Cardiac Stenting

A small balloon is placed in the narrow or blocked area of the artery and is then inflated and deflated to relieve the blockage and allow blood to flow freely to the heart. A small stent is sometimes placed in the artery to reduce the chance of blockage reoccurring. This procedure lasts approximately one to two hours.

Open Heart Surgery

Silver Cross offers comprehensive surgical care for even the most complex conditions. Our experienced professionals specialize in open-heart surgeries that most effectively treat heart conditions while minimizing recovery time and maximizing the best possible outcomes. Procedures include coronary artery bypass surgery and valve repair.

Coronary artery bypass grafting is the most common type of open-heart surgery performed on adults today. This procedure is often used for patients suffering from coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. Using a revascularization process, a portion of a healthy blood vessel from elsewhere in the body is used to create a new path around the blocked part of the blood vessel. This restores the flow of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the heart.

Surgeons at Silver Cross also perform valve surgery to repair or replace faulty heart valves.

Catheter Ablation

When the heart beats too fast, specially designed catheters are used to destroy the cells disrupting the heart’s rhythm.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

Performed by an electrophysiologist, a small, lightweight device is placed inside the body to maintain and correct the heart’s rhythm.

Permanent Pacemaker Implants

A pacemaker is a small device that’s placed under the skin in your chest during a surgical procedure to help control an irregular heartbeat.

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.