What is a heart attack?

A heart attack happens when blood stops flowing to your heart. Most heart attacks are caused by coronary artery disease. This is a gradual build-up of fat that has formed in the coronary arteries. The arteries deliver the blood to the heart muscle.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Is it a heart attack?

  • Chest pain

  • Pain that spreads from your chest to your arm

  • Neck and jaw pain

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed

  • Unusual heartbeat

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea, vomiting, indigestion

  • Back pain

  • Sweats


The deadliest type of heart attack is a STEMI. This is a total or near total blockage of a coronary artery. Our heart team works with EMS and referring hospitals to transport patients quickly to open these blockages.


If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Emergency care providers will ask you about any symptoms you are having, take your blood pressure, pulse and temperature and then connect you to a heart monitor.

Tests used to diagnose a heart attack include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) to show changes in your heart activity

  • Blood tests can show higher levels of certain proteins and enzymes during a heart attack

  • Angiography using contrast dye to make x-ray pictures of your coronary arteries leading to your heart


Swift treatment to protect your heart

Early treatment of a heart attack is important. Restoring blood flow to the heart muscle can prevent or limit damage.

If you have heart attack symptoms call 911 rather than driving yourself to the hospital. This will get you the fastest access to care for your heart.

Common treatments for a heart attack can include a stent which can be inserted into a blocked passageway to keep it open or a coronary bypass graft surgery which which redirects blood flow around the blocked portion of the artery.

Clinical trials

Learning for the future

At UW Health, one of our greatest strengths is the research we are involved in and the clinical trials we offer to our patients. We offer hope to patients with advanced heart disease.

Find a clinical trial

Meet our team

Experts who care

Our team includes:

  • Cardiovascular medicine doctors

  • Cardiothoracic surgeons

  • Nurse practitioners

  • Physician assistants

  • Interventional cardiologists

Cardiovascular medicine


Care close to home

Patient and support services

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