Get the Facts on Heart Attacks | MedStar Health

Get the Facts on Heart Attacks

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A doctor listens to a patient's heart in a clinical setting.


In honor of National Heart Month, Dr. Mun K. Hong, FAACC, Chairman, Department of Cardiology at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, took the time to answer some frequently asked questions about heart attacks. Stay informed about the risk factors and common symptoms individuals may face every day by reading below! Learn more about heart care

 Q. What is a heart attack?

 A. A heart attack is an emergency in which the heart is suddenly deprived of blood, usually due to a blood clot in an artery or by plaque or fat build-up in the wall of the artery. A heart attack requires immediate medical care.

 Q.What are the symptoms?

 A. Symptoms can include chest tightness, heaviness, or pressure, as well as pain. The discomfort can get worse even when you are resting and may radiate to the left arm, neck, or back. It may feel like indigestion, with belching giving temporary relief. Patients with diabetes may experience severe shortness of breath rather than chest pain. If these symptoms persist or get worse over the next 20 minutes or so, call 9-1-1 and describe your symptoms – never drive yourself to the emergency room.

 Q. What causes a heart attack?

 A. Heart attacks are caused by many risk factors, including a family history of heart attacks and heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, lack of exercise, obesity and emotional stress. Drugs such as cocaine can also cause a heart attack.

 Q. What are the treatment options?

  A. The best treatment is to restore blood flow with an angioplasty or a stent procedure. During an angioplasty, the cardiologist uses a tiny balloon to widen an artery that is too narrow. Sometimes the cardiologist will insert a mesh tube called a “stent” to help keep the artery open. These surgical procedures can be done only in hospitals with specialized facilities, like MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center.

 Q. What can you do to reduce the chance of a heart attack?

  A.  People who have risk factors should take the prescribed medications to treat them and should make lifestyle changes like exercising more. It is also important to see a cardiologist and family doctor regularly.