You can take steps to prevent a heart attack

Like all the muscles in your body, your heart muscle needs oxygen to do its job. Blood brings oxygen to your heart, and when oxygen-rich blood is blocked or slowed, you can have a heart attack.

During a heart attack, a blockage or clot deprives part of the heart muscle of blood. The faster you get care, the less injury your heart experiences. Quick, comprehensive treatment can help your recovery and your return to daily life after having a heart attack.

Pon a prueba tu ticker

Cuando los corazones mejoran, es algo hermoso. Y el primer paso para tener un corazón más sano es conocer su riesgo de sufrir enfermedades cardíacas. Las enfermedades cardíacas pueden incluir enfermedad de las arterias coronarias (EAC), fibrilación auricular (AFib), enfermedad de las válvulas cardíacas y otras afecciones, todas las cuales pueden dificultar el funcionamiento del corazón con el tiempo.

Responda el cuestionario y obtenga más información sobre los riesgos potenciales para la salud del corazón.

Symptoms of a heart attack

Angina, or chest pain, is the most common warning sign of a heart attack, but there are many other symptoms, including:

  • Rompiendo en un sudor frío
  • Chest discomfort (pressure, squeezing or fullness that comes and goes or lasts for a few minutes or longer)
  • Feeling faint, weak or unusually tired
  • Sentirse aturdido o mareado
  • Náuseas o vómitos
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, jaw, neck, shoulders or stomach
  • Dificultad para respirar

Not all heart attacks have symptoms

These heart attacks, called silent ischemia or silent heart attacks, occur when blood flow is blocked temporarily. This temporary blockage deprives the heart muscle of oxygen for a short time.

What causes a heart attack?

Heart attacks mostly occur when plaque made up of fat, cholesterol and other substances builds up inside the walls of your coronary arteries. This plaque buildup causes the arteries to narrow, and the plaque can break off, forming blood clots. Narrowed arteries and blood clots can prevent blood from reaching your heart, causing a heart attack.

The slow buildup of plaque, called atherosclerosis, can cause coronary artery disease, and coronary artery disease is the most common cause of heart attacks in adults. Unfortunately, you can’t feel plaque building up in your arteries, and a heart attack can be the first sign you have coronary artery disease.

Heart attacks can also occur when one of the coronary arteries contracts or spasms suddenly, as this interrupts blood flow. In other rare cases, the coronary artery can tear unexpectedly, which is called spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

Heart attack risk factors

Many factors increase your risk of having a heart attack, some of which you can control and some you can’t.

A healthy lifestyle and regular visits with your primary care provider can help reduce these risk factors:

  • Tener sobrepeso u obesidad
  • Eating an unhealthy diet high in salt, saturated fat and sugar
  • Having prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes 
  • Alta presion sanguinea
  • Colesterol alto
  • No hacer suficiente actividad física
  • Smoking or vaping

Women who had preeclampsia (a type of high blood pressure) during pregnancy also face a higher risk of heart attacks later in life.

The good news is that you can protect your heart regardless of your medical history, age, sex, or family history. If you have any of the risk factors above, talk to your provider about steps to improve your heart health.

Some heart attack risk factors are beyond your control

Those include:

  • Age and sex: Men are at greater risk for heart attacks after age 45 and women after age 55.
  • Family history of heart disease: Having a father, brother, mother or sister with heart disease at an early age (before 55 for men and 65 for women)

Diagnosing a heart attack

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It’s crucial to dial 911 for medical assistance and to reach the emergency room promptly if you suspect a heart attack. Emergency medical personnel can offer initial treatments in the ambulance and will alert the hospital’s medical team that you’re on the way.

Healthcare providers can diagnose heart attacks using a physical exam, which includes checking the person’s pulse, measuring blood oxygen levels and blood pressure, and listening to heart and lung sounds. Additionally, different imaging and diagnostic tests are used:

  • Imaging and physiologic signal testing

    Imaging and physiologic signal testing

    Tests can be performed that show aspects of the heart structure and functionality that may indicate a heart attack. An electrocardiogram measures your heart’s electrical activity and how well it’s working. Imaging tests, including angiograms, cardiac CT scans and MRIs, provide detailed pictures of the heart to help physicians identify problematic areas and abnormalities.

  • Análisis de sangre

    Análisis de sangre

    Blood tests look for proteins released by heart muscle cells during a heart attack.

Imaging and physiologic signal testing

Tests can be performed that show aspects of the heart structure and functionality that may indicate a heart attack. An electrocardiogram measures your heart’s electrical activity and how well it’s working. Imaging tests, including angiograms, cardiac CT scans and MRIs, provide detailed pictures of the heart to help physicians identify problematic areas and abnormalities.

Análisis de sangre

Blood tests look for proteins released by heart muscle cells during a heart attack.

Treatments for a heart attack

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Emergency treatment for a heart attack focuses on clearing the blockage causing your heart attack and restoring blood flow to your heart.
  • Medicamentos

    Medicamentos

    Depending on the severity of your heart attack and other underlying health conditions, one or a combination of medications may be prescribed to help your recovery and manage risks and symptoms for future heart attacks.

    For example, statins help reduce fatty deposits in your arteries. Beta-blockers manage blood pressure and heart rate levels. Additionally, your physician may give you medication, such as aspirin, that helps prevent blood clots and other heart attacks.

  • Terapia de oxigeno

    Terapia de oxigeno

    Oxygen therapy can help increase the amount of oxygen sent to the body and reduce the workload on your heart while it recovers from a heart attack.

  • Cirugía y procedimientos

    Cirugía y procedimientos

    • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is a procedure in which a balloon is inserted into the blocked or narrowed artery and inflated to restore blood flow to the heart.
    • A stent, a small mesh tube, can also be placed into the blocked artery to keep it open and help restore blood flow to the heart.
    • Coronary artery bypass grafting, commonly known as heart bypass surgery, diverts blood around narrowed or clogged parts of the major arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart.
  • Rehabilitación cardiaca

    Rehabilitación cardiaca

    Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that involves exercises to strengthen your heart and education to help you adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Cardiac rehab can protect your heart from future heart attacks as well as future complications, such as heart failure and arrhythmias.

Medicamentos

Depending on the severity of your heart attack and other underlying health conditions, one or a combination of medications may be prescribed to help your recovery and manage risks and symptoms for future heart attacks.

For example, statins help reduce fatty deposits in your arteries. Beta-blockers manage blood pressure and heart rate levels. Additionally, your physician may give you medication, such as aspirin, that helps prevent blood clots and other heart attacks.

Terapia de oxigeno

Oxygen therapy can help increase the amount of oxygen sent to the body and reduce the workload on your heart while it recovers from a heart attack.

Cirugía y procedimientos

  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is a procedure in which a balloon is inserted into the blocked or narrowed artery and inflated to restore blood flow to the heart.
  • A stent, a small mesh tube, can also be placed into the blocked artery to keep it open and help restore blood flow to the heart.
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting, commonly known as heart bypass surgery, diverts blood around narrowed or clogged parts of the major arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart.

Rehabilitación cardiaca

Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that involves exercises to strengthen your heart and education to help you adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Cardiac rehab can protect your heart from future heart attacks as well as future complications, such as heart failure and arrhythmias.

Encuentre una ubicación cerca de usted

Our cardiologists are dedicated to helping you recover from a heart attack as quickly and thoroughly as possible. You have access to high-quality emergency and follow-up heart care at locations across North and Central Texas, so you can get back in action and protect your heart for the long term.

Preguntas frecuentes

  • If my genetics increase my risk for atherosclerosis and heart disease, is there anything I can do to avoid a heart attack?

    Yes. Studies have shown that certain medications and healthy lifestyle changes can lower your heart attack risk to that of an average-risk individual, even if you are genetically predisposed to heart disease.

  • Should I take a statin or daily aspirin to prevent a heart attack if I haven’t had one?

    You should talk to your doctor to see if those medications would be appropriate and help reduce your risk. Those medications can be beneficial for some people but not everyone. Lifestyle changes should always be the cornerstone of prevention.

  • Will I always be on medications after a heart attack?

    You may need to take certain medications, such as aspirin and cholesterol medication, long term, but the other medications can be weaned off if you adopt healthier habits and make the right lifestyle changes.