St. Joseph Health System
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Heart Attack (Acute Myocardial Infarction)

What is a Heart Attack (also called an Acute Myocardial Infarction or MI)?
Every year, nearly one million Americans experience heart attacks.
A Heart Attack is a complete blockage of blood flow through the coronary artery. The blockage prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching part of the heart muscle. Usually a blood clot causes the blockage in the heart artery. When blood cannot reach part of the heart muscle, the muscle may become permanently damaged. If symptoms of a heart attack are experienced, seek medical help immediately, as a quick response can lessen heart damage and even prevent fatality.

The following are potential symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Moderate to severe chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Radiating pain in the arms or chest

It is also surprisingly common for people to experience no symptoms at all. This is especially true of diabetics and those over the age of 75. We recommend that these individuals visit their family physician and/or cardiologist on a regular basis to continually monitor their heart health.

What to do in the event of a heart attack?

In the event of a Heart Attack, every second counts. If you feel that you or someone you know is experiencing a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.

After calling 9-1-1, chew one regular strength (preferably non-coated) aspirin or 4 baby aspirin. The aspirin works to thin the blood, allowing more oxygen-rich blood to get through the narrowed artery to your heart. Aspirin has proven to reduce fatality in heart attack victims by about 25%. If the heart attack victim is unconscious, providing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (CPR) can provide oxygen to their brain, heart, and other body parts.  

There are a variety of procedures that can treat and stabilize the lining of the coronary arteries. These procedures include:

  • Acute Angioplasty
  • Balloon Angioplasty
  • Coronary Stenting
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
  • Thrombolytic Therapy

If you have been diagnosed with a Heart Attack, it is extremely important to make lifestyle changes that reduce the risk factors which have contributed to your heart disease. Making such changes can stop and even reverse the negative effects of a heart attack. Changing your lifestyle to reduce your risk factors is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your overall cardiovascular condition.

For a referral to a St. Joseph's cardiologist call 979.821.7589.

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