Heart Attack Signs & Care - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Heart Attack Signs & Care

Warning Signs & Symptoms of Heart Attacks

Call 911 if you notice the sudden appearance of any of these symptoms:

  • Chest discomfort - Most often discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body - Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath - May occur with or without chest discomfort and can occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other signs - These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light headiness.

Warning Signs & Symptoms for Women

Women may experience a heart attack much differently than men. While they may have some of the above symptoms, they may not - and they often have other symptoms that men don't report. A woman may have all or some of the following:

  • Chest discomfort, uncomfortable pressure, tightness, squeezing and/or fullness may last for a few solid minutes or come and go
  • Crushing chest pain
  • Pressure that spreads to jaw, neck, upper back, shoulders or arms
  • Dizziness or nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach or abdominal pain that may feel like indigestion
  • Shortness of breath/difficult breathing
  • Unexplained anxiety, fatigue or weakness - especially when active
  • Clammy sweating
  • Heart flutters
  • Pale skin

Heart Attack Care at Wheaton

Diagnosing a Heart Attack

If you arrive with symptoms of a heart attack, our doctors will work quickly to confirm your diagnosis, relieve your symptoms and treat the problem. Depending upon your symptoms, you may have one or more of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Medical history and physical exam to identify a heart attack and how long it has lasted
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids and medicine
  • An electrocardiograph (ECG) to diagnose a heart attack
  • Electrocardiographic (ECG) monitoring to screen for abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Blood tests to confirm a heart attack
  • Medications, such as nitroglycerin, aspirin, and clot-busting drugs
  • Oxygen
  • Other tests to help detect complications due to a heart attack
  • Cardiac catheterization, which involves threading a flexible tube into the heart to provide information about the heart or to open a blocked artery

Risk Factors for a Heart Attack

Modifiable behaviors are those risk factors that you can control, improve and/or treat:

  • Arterial disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy weight

View upcoming smoking cessation and exercise or fitness classes available through Wheaton.

Risk factors that you cannot control include:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Gender
  • Prior attack or other heart events

Recovering from a Heart Attack

After having a cardiac event, you'll benefit from our comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program that works with you from hospitalization to voluntary participation. The program includes education and exercises to help you return to independent living.

Learn more about our cardiac rehabilitation program.

Marathon Runner Overcomes Heart Attack with Treatment at All Saints

Van Shields was in the midst of training for his third marathon when he suffered a heart attack at home. Watch Van tell his story about how he returned to distance running within weeks.

For More Information

Visit our Health Library to learn more about heart disease and heart attacks.

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