Heart Emergencies

When you are experiencing the early warning signs of a heart attack, don't wait to get help. Minutes matter, pay attention to your body and call 9-1-1 immediately. The Palm Beach Health Network has an experienced team ready to get the treatment you need fast.

What is a Heart Emergency?

Heart emergencies include:

  • A heart attack
  • A cardiac arrest
  • An angina attack or unstable angina - this can be undiagnosed chest pain or a sudden worsening of existing angina

Heart Attack

A heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction, happens when part of the heart muscle is not getting enough blood. This is usually due to narrowing or blockage in the heart (coronary) arteries, creating damage to the heart. This blockage of the heart arteries is typically a result of fat buildup, cholesterol and other substances in the arteries. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common cause of heart attack. A less common cause is a severe spasm, or sudden contraction, of a heart artery that can stop blood flow to the heart muscle.

Learn More About Coronary Artery Disease

What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Symptoms of a heart attack vary and can range from mild to severe and sometimes people will even experience no symptoms. Some of the primary symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort - Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint, you might also break out into a cold sweat.
  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders. 

Shortness of breath - This often comes along with chest discomfort or can possibly happen before chest discomfort.

Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms.


Call 9-1-1 If You Notice Symptoms of a Heart Attack

If you notice any symptoms of a heart attack in yourself or someone else, call or have someone near you call 9-1-1 immediately. The sooner you get to an emergency room, the sooner you can get treatment needed to minimize the amount of damage to the heart muscle. At the Palm Beach Health Network, a team of experienced health care professionals will run the necessary tests to find out if a heart attack is happening and determine the best treatment.

Remember, the chances of surviving a heart attack are better the sooner emergency treatment begins.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest, also known as sudden cardiac arrest, is when the heart stops beating suddenly. When this happens, the lack of blood flow to the brain and other vital organs can cause a person to lose consciousness, become disabled, or die if not treated immediately. Cardiac arrests are caused by certain types of arrhythmias that prevent the heart from pumping.

Learn More About Arrhythmias

What Are the Symptoms of a Cardiac Arrest

A person may be experiencing cardiac arrest if they experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitation (fast or pounding heart)
  • Collapse suddenly and lose consciousness (pass out)
  • Are not breathing, their breathing is ineffective, or they are gasping for air
  • Do not respond to shouting or shaking
  • Do not have a pulse

Remember, symptoms of cardiac can be life-threatening. Do not hesitate to call 9-1-1 or go directly to the ER if you are having problems such as chest pains, dizziness, shortness or breath, or sudden numbness. Get help immediately."

Causes of Cardiac Arrest

The main cause of cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, which are types of arrhythmias. Important risk factors include prior cardiac arrest, coronary heart disease, heart valve disease, congenital heart defects, and arrhythmias caused by faulty genes. However, half of cardiac arrests happen to people who did not know they had a heart problem.

Call 9-1-1 Immediately

Calling 9-1-1 and immediately treating with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation can save the life of a person in cardiac arrest. A defibrillator is a device that sends an electric shock to the heart to try to restore its normal rhythm. Most people who have a cardiac arrest do not receive treatment quickly enough to survive.

  • Cardiac arrest causes about 300,000 to 450,000 deaths in the United States each year.
  • Cardiac arrest causes about half of the deaths linked with heart attack and stroke.

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