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​​​​​If you, or someone you know, a​re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack,
call 9-1-1 immediately.

Photo of Emergency Care and a patient

A heart attack (called a myocardial infarction in medical terms) is damage to the heart muscle that results from prolonged lack of blood flow to the heart. Heart attacks are caused by atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque along the walls of the arteries that deliver blood to your heart (the coronary arteries). Most frequently, the plaque surface cracks or wears away, causing a blood clot to form on the surface of the plaque, which blocks the artery and prevents blood from reaching a portion of your heart.

Most heart attacks happen suddenly (called acute), and people who suffer acute heart attacks need immediate medical attention. Physicians use the phrase "time is muscle" because after 15 to 20 minutes without oxygen, tissue damage and death (infarction) begins to occur. 

Most damage from heart attacks occurs in the first two to three hours of onset. The longer blood flow to the heart is blocked, the more heart muscle will die. Quickly clearing the blockage is therefore critical, and often shortly after a heart attack is diagnosed, patients undergo angioplasty and stenting. 

In angioplasty and stenting, a balloon-tipped catheter is threaded through the blood vessels to the site of the blockage. Once in place, the balloon is inflated and deflated, flattening the blockage against the walls of the artery, restoring blood flow. A stent, a metal-mesh tube, is placed at the site of the newly cleared blockage. It acts as a form of scaffolding to make sure the artery remains open. Because prompt medical attention is essential, it is important to know and recognize the symptoms of a heart attack.

What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Attack?

There are two types of risk factors for heart attack, including the following:

Inherited (or genetic)​

Inherited or genetic risk factors are risk factors you are born with that cannot be changed, but can be improved with medical management and lifestyle changes.

Acquired

​Acquired​ risk factors are caused by activities that we choose to include in our lives that can be managed through lifestyle changes and clinical care.

Inherited Genetic Factors: Who is Most at Risk?

  • People with inherited hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • People with inherited low levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins), high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) blood cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides
  • People with a family history of heart disease​ (especially with onset before age 55)
  • Aging men and women
  • People with type 1 diabetes
  • Women, after the onset of menopause (generally, men are at risk at an earlier age than women; but, after the onset of menopause, women are equally at risk).​ Read more about Women's Heart Health »

Acquired Risk Factors: Who is Most at Risk?

  • People with acquired hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • People with acquired low levels of HDL (high-density lipoproteins), high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) blood cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides
  • Cigarette smokers
  • People who are under a lot of stress
  • People who drink too much alcohol
  • People who lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • People overweight by 30 percent or more
  • People who eat a diet high in saturated fat
  • People with type 2 diabetes

A heart attack can happen to anyone – it is only when we take the time to learn which of the risk factors apply to us, specifically, can we then take steps to eliminate or reduce them.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Why The Heart Hospital Baylor?

The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano offers one of only two heart specialty emergency departments in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The emergency cardiac care department also features a "No Wait Triage," where guests are seen within three minutes of arrival. The physicians on our medical staff are highly skilled in treating heart attacks and other cardiovascular emergencies, and our teams are as equally trained in all critical emergencies as well.

The emergency cardiac care department at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano is a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, accredited chest pain center with board-certified emergency room physicians and cardiologists on the medical staff, and specially trained nurses. Our average door-to-balloon time is about 55.5 minutes, well below the national average of 90 minutes. (Door-to-balloon time is an initiative that measures how much time it takes to get a guest that is experiencing chest pain or a heart attack from the door of the ER to undergoing a balloon angioplasty to open an affected artery.)​​

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