Understanding Heart Attacks

Filed under: Community |

Submitted by Methodist Charlton Hospital

The American Heart Association estimates 1.5 million Americans have heart attacks every year. Almost half are suffering their first heart attack, usually with no warning.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Tim T. Issac, MD, an independently practicing physician and interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, says heart attack symptoms include chest discomfort that may start with some activity, like exercising, and often continues at rest. Many describe the pain as a pressure or constriction sensation – like someone is sitting on their chest. The pain may spread to the left arm, shoulder, jaw, and neck,along with difficulty breathing, nausea and/or vomiting, and sweating. The pain may grow stronger and then weaker as the coronary artery becomes blocked, and then remain constant.

Symptoms for women and persons with diabetes may differ. They may experience more shortness of breath and gastrointestinal (GI) complaints such as nausea and abdominal discomfort. They may also experience less chest pain, and less radiating of the pain spreading to other parts of the body.What should you do if you experience heart attack symptoms?

The first step is to take an aspirin. If you are on nitroglycerine, take it. Get to a safe place, stop moving, and rest. You or a family member should call 911. Seek medical attention immediately to minimize damage to the heart.

How can you help prevent a heart attack?

Maintain a proper diet and exercise. It is recommended to exercise 45 minutes a day with an elevated heart rate four to five times a week. Keep your blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol under control. Stop smoking, as smoking can thicken the walls of the arteries, blocking blood to the heart.

Traditional risk factors for heart attacks include:

  • Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Poor diet
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history of heart attacks
  • Diabetes

Know the signs of a heart attack, and seek medical help the moment you think you might be having one.


The STEMI (ST-segment elevated myocardial infarction) program at Methodist Charlton saves time and lives of heart attack patients. Emergency medical services (EMS) electronically sends an EKG to a physician in the emergency department who can confirm if the patient is experiencing a heart attack and activate the cardiac catheterization lab team before the patient arrives in the hospital, saving precious minutes. Methodist Charlton averages a door-to-balloon (D2B) time of 57 minutes, compared to the national benchmark of 90 minutes, and a SOAR rate (Symptom Onset to Arterial Reperfusion) that is among the top 5 percent of hospitals in Dallas County.

Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System. To find a physician on the medical staff at Methodist Health System, call 214-947-0000 to talk to a physician referral specialist.

Dr. Tim T. Issac is an independently practicing interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center.