Heart Attack

A heart attack can come with warning signs like chest and arm pain, or even nausea. It can also occur suddenly and without warning. Spectrum Health has heart experts to treat emergencies and assess concerning symptoms.  In fact, we treat more acute heart attacks than anyone else in Michigan. Our first goal is to save your life. Our second goal is to minimize damage to your heart muscle as much as possible.

A heart attack happens when blood flow is blocked to the heart. This is usually caused by a blood clot that forms within an area that has a buildup of plaque. Warning signs include chest discomfort, pain in the upper body and shortness of breath. Recognizing the symptoms and getting help quickly are key to your recovery.

The earlier you treat the heart attack, the less damage there is. Spectrum Health is ranked among the top hospitals in the nation in speed to successfully treating heart attacks. We care for more acute heart attack patients than anyone else in the state of Michigan, and because we see so many patients, we are able to offer the latest technology and the most experience in the area.

Treatments for Heart Attack

You should treat any heart attack symptom as an emergency and go to the ER immediately. We have a special heart "triage" process that can assess you right away, any time you arrive with possible heart symptoms. 

Our heart team excels at restoring blood flow to your heart, fast. In fact, our average time from arrival to restoring blood flow is more than 40 minutes faster than the goal set by the American Heart Association. This speed and skill save your heart, and often your life.

Depending on what your heart problem is, treatment may also include a procedure to place stents to keep the artery open. You may need bypass surgery or the help of devices to support your heart. Whatever you need, even if it is a heart transplant, we have the best surgeons, right here.

Bypass Surgery
This surgery creates a bypass graft using a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body or a synthetic tube to reroute blood flow.

Medication Management
Along with very important lifestyle changes, there are a variety of medicines used to help treat heart conditions. Medicines for heart disease are used to ease discomfort or lessen symptoms, but some can also be essential in preventing life-threatening episodes. It is important to take your medicines exactly as prescribed, and work with your doctor on both lifestyle and medicine changes.

Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (Angioplasty/Stent Placement)
An angioplasty is a less invasive procedure that opens a clogged artery with a small balloon. This can be done through the wrist (radial) or the groin (femoral) artery. Typically this procedure includes the placement of stents.

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), means that some heart muscles were injured or died because they didn’t get enough oxygen. An MI occurs when arteries carrying blood to heart muscles (coronary arteries) are blocked.

What Causes a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when a blood clot forms in a coronary artery and stops blood flow to the heart muscle, so the muscle is injured or dies. Smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high levels of cholesterol (a fatty substance), and a family history of heart disease and inflammation of the coronary arteries increase the risk of heart attacks.

What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

Chest pain, moderate to severe, is the most common symptom. Pain can also occur in the jaw, back, shoulders, or arms (especially the left arm). Pain is often described as crushing, heavy, or pressurelike. Some people have no pain. Sweating, shortness of breath, fast or irregular heartbeat, nausea, feeling of indigestion, and vomiting are other symptoms. Women and diabetics may have symptoms different from those in men, such as shortness of breath without chest pain.

How Is a Heart Attack Diagnosed?

The health care provider will do an examination, take blood samples, and order electrocardiography (ECG) to see which areas of the heart may have been damaged.

How Is a Heart Attack Treated?

The treatment goal is to save as much heart muscle as possible. The choice of treatment depends on how much time has passed from the start of the heart attack and on the availability of special procedures at the hospital where you are treated. To salvage as much heart muscle as possible, medications to improve circulation and dissolve the clot blocking the artery are given, or a procedure called angioplasty may be done. Other medicine will control pain and blood pressure, and oxygen will help breathing. Other drugs, including aspirin and cholesterollowering drugs (statins), may be suggested.

If angioplasty is done, a catheter (long plastic tube) is placed into a leg artery and passed to the heart to take pictures of coronary arteries. The blocked artery is opened with a small balloon on the tip of a catheter. A small metal wire mesh (stent) put into the blocked coronary artery will help keep the artery from blocking again. Medicine can also stop new blockage.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing a Heart Attack:
  • DO call 911 emergency if you have heart attack symptoms.
  • DO understand that time is critical. The longer the blockage, the more heart damage.
  • DO understand risk factors.
  • DO stop smoking.
  • DO take medicine as prescribed.
  • DO have your cholesterol level checked regularly. Eat low-fat foods.
  • DO try to maintain your ideal body weight.
  • DO regular exercise, such as walking, if your health care provider says it’s OK.
  • DO see your health care provider regularly and call your health care provider about changes in your condition, such as if you had a heart attack and develop shortness of breath when walking, and leg swelling or difficulty breathing when lying down.
  • DON’T forget to see a cardiologist (health care provider specializing in heart diseases) for advice, both during and after a heart attack.
  • DON’T try to treat yourself or delay getting medical care.

Contact the following sources:

  • American Heart Association
    Tel: (800) 242-8721
    Website: http://www.americanheart.org
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
    Tel: (301) 592-8573
    Website: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov
  • American College of Cardiology
    Tel: (800) 253-4636
    Website: http://www.acc.org

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor