Heart Attack


A heart attack happens when one or both of your coronary arteries – the main arteries that wrap around the outside of your heart and supply it with oxygen-rich blood – get blocked. Blockages are usually caused by fatty deposits called plaque, which develop when you have coronary artery disease (CAD). A spasm, or sudden tightening, in one of your coronary arteries can also trigger a heart attack. 

Doctors call a heart attack a myocardial infarction or MI. When the blockage keeps blood and oxygen from reaching part of your heart muscle, that part can be damaged permanently.

Other factors that can increase your risk for a heart attack include:
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Smoking 
  • Stress
  • A family history of heart disease


The most common heart attack symptom for men is crushing chest pain. Women tend to feel pain in the arms, back, neck or jaw, and general fatigue.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Chest discomfort (angina) that lasts more than a few minutes or that comes and goes. You can feel pressure, squeezing, fullness, indigestion or pain
  • Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath 

Some people have warning signs several months or weeks before a heart attack such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Indigestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shoulder blade or upper back pain
  • Sleep disturbances

You can also have a silent – or symptomless – heart attack. This is more likely to happen if you’re elderly, female or diabetic. Most people don’t know they’ve had one until their doctor discovers it during a routine exam.

Services & Treatment

If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack or warning signs, call 911. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms go away. Don’t try to drive yourself to the emergency room. Getting quick treatment can save your life. 

If you’ve had a heart attack or warning signs of an approaching heart attack, your doctor can work with you on a treatment plan to protect your health and your future. Your options may include lifestyle changes as well as medications such as aspirin, clot-dissolving agents and cholesterol-lowering drugs. 

Your doctor may also recommend a surgical procedure such as:

At Aurora, you can count on personalized, compassionate care from experts in preventing, diagnosing and treating heart attacks. We also offer full-service rehabilitation to get you back on the road to recovery.

Why Aurora?

You're at the Heart of Our Care 

Aurora Health Care offers coordinated care for preventing, diagnosing and treating heart and vascular disease. World-renowned heart and vascular specialists diagnose and treat all types of cardiovascular conditions and disorders, using the most advanced state-of-the-art tools and technologies available today. 

We have 15 hospitals and 155 clinics throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois so you can find a location that's closest to you. 

What’s all this mean to you? Convenient, coordinated and expert care.  

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