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. 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 recovery. The earlier the heart attack is treated, the less damage there is.

Our teams treat more acute heart attacks than anyone else in Michigan. Our hospitals are ranked among the top in the nation in speed to successfully treating heart attacks. We are expertly trained and experienced in treating heart emergencies, assessing concerning symptoms and leveraging the latest techniques and technology to help our patients.

The well-being of our patients is at the core of everything we do, and why our first goal is always to save their life. Then, we prioritize minimizing the damage to your heart muscle as much as possible.

Treatment options

Any heart attack symptom should be treated as an emergency. Go to the ER immediately where we have a special heart "triage" process that can assess possible heart symptoms right away.

Our heart team excels at restoring blood flow to the heart, fast. 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 can save hearts and lives.

Treatment will vary depending on the heart problem and can include a procedure to place stents to keep the artery open. The patient may also need bypass surgery or the help of devices to support their heart. We have experienced surgeons and specialized teams to treat any heart condition, including heart transplantation.

Bypass surgery
close icon

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
close icon

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)
close icon

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.

Symptoms and signs of Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS)

ACS is term for a wide range of conditions that cause a sudden reduction in blood flow to the heart, including a heart attack. The following are the most common symptoms of a heart attack. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Heart attack symptoms
close icon
  • Chest discomfort
  • Chest pressure
  • Chest ache
  • Chest burning
  • Chest fullness
Other possible symptoms
close icon
  • Weakness.
  • Sweating.
  • Nausea.
  • Dizziness.
  • A sharp or “knife-like” pain that occurs with coughing or breathing.
  • Pain that spreads above the jawbone or into the lower body.
  • Difficult or labored breathing.
Women may have different symptoms
close icon
  • Men may feel pain and numbness in the left arm or the side of the chest. In women, these symptoms may appear on the right side.
  • Women may experience unexplained exhaustion, feel drained, dizzy or nauseous.
  • Women may feel upper back pain that travels up into their jaw.
  • Women may think their stomach pain is the flu, heartburn or an ulcer.

Importance of calling 911

Survive. Don’t drive. Call 911.

The majority of heart damage occurs within the first two hours of a blockage. Emergency medical technicians know what to do in order to save a life. Many ambulances are equipped with lifesaving machines and medications that can diagnose a heart attack and stimulate the heart in case in stops.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease

Having cardiovascular disease may increase the risk for ACS or a heart attack. Factors that increase risk include:

  • A family history of cardiovascular disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Overweight or obese.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Using tobacco products.
  • Metabolic disease, diabetes or other illnesses.
  • For women it can also include taking birth control pills, a history of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or having a low birthweight baby.

Hands-only CPR

Knowing hands-only CPR could help save a life in an emergency.

Giving CPR: Hands Only

  1. Hand position: Two hands centered on the chest.
  2. Body position: Shoulders directly over hands; elbows locked.
  3. Depth: At least 2 inches.
  4. Rate: 100-120 per minute
  5. Recoil: Allow chest to return to normal position after each compression.

Take an assessment to learn your heart risk

Discuss your risk assessment results with your care team.