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Heart Attack

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What is heart attack?

Heart attack is the damage of heart tissue caused by complete blockage in one of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart, interrupting blood flow. When heart tissue is deprived of blood-borne oxygen for longer than 30 minutes, damage occurs.

Blockage usually occurs from coronary heart disease, a condition in which deposits of cholesterol and fatty material build up in the arteries and block blood flow. When the heart is unable to pump blood throughout the body, permanent brain damage or death can occur within five minutes.

What are the signs of a heart attack?

Heart attack doesn’t always present as crushing chest pain, especially in women.

  • Chest pain or pressure in the center of the chest that can range from mild to severe and lasts more than a few minutes
  • Discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea

Delay can be deadly!

If you think you are experiencing heart attack symptoms, call 911 immediately. Let the EMS professionals determine whether or not you are having a heart attack. Quick action and medical treatment can restore blood flow, but this can happen only if the person receives medical help right away.

What’s your risk for heart attack?

Some risk factors can’t be helped, such as age and heredity. Others can be avoided or regulated with diet, exercise or medicine. Know the facts and take action.

Blood pressure

Facts:  Good = 120/80 mmHg; High = 140/90 mmHg or more. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder than it should to move blood throughout your body. Untreated, it can lead to heart attack, stroke, eye and kidney problems and death.

Prevention:  Have your doctor check your blood pressure, aim for a healthy weight, stay physically active, follow a healthy diet, limit alcohol intake and take medicine if prescribed.


Facts:  Good = Less than 200 mg/dL; Borderline-high = 200-239 mg/dL; High = 240 mg/dL or more. High cholesterol clogs your arteries, which leads to heart disease.

Prevention:  After age 20, have your cholesterol checked every five years, or more often if it is high; learn what your numbers mean; follow a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol; aim for a healthy weight; stay physically active; take medicine if prescribed.


Facts:  Sleeping less than six hours a night on a regular basis doubles your chance of heart attack and raises the risk of congestive heart failure.

Prevention:  If you’re having significant sleep problems, talk to your physician.


Facts:  Cigarette smoking is addictive. It damages your heart and lungs and can greatly increase your risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease.

Prevention:  If you smoke, ask your physician about cessation programs and stop now.


Facts:  Body Mass Index (BMI) is a calculation of your weight and height. Underweight=20 or less; Healthy=20-25; Overweight=25-30; Obese=30 or more. Excess weight increases your risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.

Prevention:  Maintain a healthy weight; if you are overweight, try losing ½ to 1 pound a week; If you are obese, see your physician about a weight plan.


Facts:  Physical inactivity increases your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and heart attack.

Prevention:  Experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, such as walking, dancing, biking, swimming, etc.

If you are concerned about any of these risk factors, call your physician. If you need a physician, call UT Health East Texas Physicians at 903-596-DOCS, or click here to schedule an appointment online.