Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center

What to know about a heart attack

What to know about a heart attack

Heart attacks are the number one killer of the adult population in the United States. There are 800,000 heart attack deaths each year1.

Heart attacks are caused by loss of blood flow to the heart muscle from a blockade in the vessels that provide nutrient and oxygen to the heart. A heart attack can present itself in several ways:

  • Sudden severe chest pain that stop you in your tracks
  • Gradual increasing chest pain over hours
  • Very early presentation with mild chest pain symptoms--which reoccurs over hours or days

Are you at risk?

Uncontrollable risk factors include:

  • Older age
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Post-menopausal
  • Race (African Americans, American Indians, and Mexican Americans are more likely to have heart disease than Caucasians)

Risk factors within your control:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Stress

To find out if you have risk factors for a heart attack, find a doctor and schedule an appointment with your health provider.

How do you know when you're having a heart attack?

Heart attacks can present themselves differently for men and women. Major symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Severe chest pain, heaviness, squeezing
  • Chest pain with sudden breaking out in a sweat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain down the left arm and hand
  • Pain in the neck and or jaw
  • Pain in the back between the shoulders
  • Nausea, vomiting, heartburn pain

Early attention is the key. If you or someone you know has these symptoms, call 911 right away. Every second counts. You need to be seen in an emergency room as soon as possible.

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately
  • Do not delay
  • Do not wait to call the doctor first
  • Do not drive yourself

85% of the damage takes place in the first two hours of a heart attack. Responding immediately can help prevent heart damage and avoid sudden death. Whether you are experiencing the early symptoms yourself or you are a witness to someone else experiencing early symptoms of heart attack, you can become an early cardiac care giver by insisting on medical attention.

Houston Methodist is an accredited chest pain treatment center. Learn more about our patient resources or schedule a heart scan to better understand your risk.

1 http://www.deputyheartattack.org/