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Heart Attack: Causes and Treatment

A heart attack, known clinically as a myocardial infarction, is a life-threatening event that requires immediate medical intervention.

At CardioVascular Health Clinic, we provide complete heart care for people who have had heart attacks or are at risk for heart attacks. If you believe that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

In the United States, approximately 635,000 people experience their first heart attack every year. While living a full and healthy life after experiencing a heart attack is possible, an estimated one in seven fatalities in the United States is related to heart disease. 

Knowing the risks and symptoms is crucial to avoiding or overcoming heart attacks. 

What Causes a Heart Attack?

Most heart attacks are caused by arterial blockages that prevent the flow of blood to the heart. Such obstructions are known as atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits called plaques. Plaques consist of calcium, cellular waste, cholesterol, clotting material called fibrin, and fatty materials.

Over time, the plaque buildup can break away and become lodged in the artery, completely blocking blood flow. When the heart is denied a blood supply, a heart attack can occur.

However, not every heart attack is caused by a blockage. In roughly 5% of all heart attack cases, the cause is one of the following:

  • Arterial spasm: When blood vessels involuntarily restrict blood flow to the heart.
  • Unexplained narrowing of blood vessels: Certain medical conditions might cause blood vessels to narrow.
  • Trauma/injury: Any ruptures or splits within the coronary arteries that compromise the flow of blood.
  • Eating disorders: Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating) can lead to serious cardiac complications, electrolyte imbalance, and irregular heartbeat.

When the blood flow to the heart is interrupted, the heart muscle cannot pump blood throughout the brain and the body. When the heart cannot function, cardiac arrest occurs, effectively stopping the function of other vital organs. Cardiac arrest can lead to death in only a few minutes. 

What Are Heart Attack Symptoms?

Common symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Angina (chest pain): Chest pain can be severe and sudden or a dull discomfort. The pain can start as a pressure or squeezing sensation in the chest and spread to the back, arms, shoulders, and waist.
  • Digestive discomfort: Sometimes, symptoms of a heart attack are misidentified as heartburn or indigestion. Nausea and stomach upset are very common indications of a heart attack.
  • Irregular heartbeat: Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations often accompany a heart attack.
  • Dizziness: Dizziness can occur during a heart attack due to restricted blood flow to the brain.

While both men and women experience heart attacks and coronary artery disease, the symptoms can differ depending on the sex of the patient. 

Common Heart Attack Symptoms Among Women

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleep disorders before onset of heart attack
  • Shortness of breath 

Who is At Risk for a Heart Attack?

Numerous lifestyle factors, health conditions, and genetic contributors can put you at risk of a heart attack. 

Lifestyle Issues

  • Sedentary/little physical exercise
  • Diet high in calories, sodium, and fat
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Drug misuse/addiction

Family History

  • Mother or sister with diagnosed heart disease before age 65
  • Father or brother with diagnosed heart disease before age 55

Health Conditions

  • Obesity
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High LDL cholesterol 
  • Disordered eating (bulimia, anorexia, binge eating)
  • Diabetes

How Are Heart Attacks Treated?

Your medical provider will conduct a series of tests to determine whether your symptoms are indicative of a heart attack. These tests might include the following:

  • Discussing your medical history
  • Blood lab work
  • Heart imaging exams

Your treatment options will depend upon the severity of the heart attack and if there are potentially dangerous associated symptoms, like trouble breathing. Your treatment might include:

  • Angioplasty: Angioplasty is a surgical intervention to open clogged or narrowed arteries. It involves inserting an inflatable balloon device into a blocked artery to facilitate the flow of blood. 
  • Bypass surgery: Bypass surgery is the surgical redirection of the blood flow around a blocked artery using a section of a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body. This surgical intervention might be performed as a minimally invasive keyhole surgery or a traditional open-heart surgery, depending upon the patient’s condition.
  • Medications: Medications administered after a heart attack include blood thinners, nitroglycerin (to widen blood vessels), blood pressure medications (ACE inhibitors), thrombolytic drugs (to dissolve blood clots), and statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs).

If you are concerned about your risk of heart attack or heart disease, please contact our representatives to schedule a comprehensive evaluation today. 

Patient Resources

We’re committed to timely, efficient, and affordable care.
Here is a collection of useful resources our new and existing patients need in one convenient location.
Please let us know if you need additional information or have any questions.

Testimonials

Professional staff working in a beautiful facility with great doctors who sincerely care about their patients. Without Dr. Schmidt's skill, I would have needed heart bypass surgery instead of a stent. Follow-up has been thorough. I can't recommend them highly enough.
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LeAnn Harner

Dr. Jim Melton and all the staff are fantastic. He is an excellent surgeon and his team is GREAT!!!! I just had surgery at the surgery center, I have only great things to say about my experience. Without him I really don't think I would be here to write this. If you’re looking for a good cardiovascular team, they are a 5 star for sure.

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Susie Brooks Harrison

Dr. Parsons and staff are amazing. He truly listened to me from the consult. Staff showed genuine care for my progress post procedure. I had my follow up appointment today so satisfied with results. Blake made me comfortable from the start. He is an activist for uterine fibroids treatment beyond the standard.

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Tamara Means

Professional and caring staff. Dr. Smith is very knowledgeable and shows genuine concern for your personal health. I enjoyed the background music in the procedure room, it really adds to the relaxing atmosphere.

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David Lambert

Dr. John Schrader is the most personable doctor we know. He stays on top of my dads health care and is genuinely concerned about his health. We never leave his office with questions. He answers them all. Even questions we don’t think of. Always professional but never cold or bad bedside manner. In our opinion he is THE BEST around.
Thank you Dr Schrader.

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Kathy J

I came to Dr. Warren by a self referral for mals when it took me 8yrs 50+ doctors and thousands of dollars spent on no answers. My first visit I was scared I was just going to be gaslighted just like the past however I was pleasantly shocked when Dr. Warren immediately believed me. She took the time to review many disk I had brought from past tests. She never once dismissed me and listened to ever word I had to say. She scheduled one last test to confirm the diagnosis then I was scheduled for surgery right away. Surgery was a success and I can’t thank her and her staff enough. Dr. Warren truly saved my life.

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Angie W

Dr. Garner literally saved my life 18 months ago and I've followed him to his new practice with Cardiovascular Health. He explains things so clearly, listens and is just a very nice person. His staff is great, too! I highly recommend!

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D Watts

Some of the nicest staff that I have ever dealt with!! They have been so incredibly awesome to my mom!! Would definitely recommend them to anyone!! Thank you so much for being so great with her!!

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Christy Garvie

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