If you or someone you know is experiencing a heart attack, call 911. Our emergency medical services team starts treatment during your trip to the hospital. Fast medical treatment at Blessing’s Emergency Center, a Certified Chest Pain Center, can minimize damage to heart muscle and save lives.

Signs of a Heart Attack

Heart attack symptoms vary from person to person. Not everyone experiences the sudden, crushing chest pain commonly depicted on television and in movies. In fact, symptoms may come and go for hours or even days.

Seek medical attention if you experience any of these heart attack signs:

  • Chest pain

  • Chest discomfort like a squeezing pressure, fullness or indigestion

  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach

  • Shortness of breath

  • Cold sweat

  • Unexplained fatigue

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

Early Heart Attack Care

Blessing Hospital's Heart & Vascular Center is committed to educating the community of the earliest signs of heart attack care. Click here to learn more about Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC) and common questions about the specific and non-specific signs of heart attacks. You can also click here to learn more about hands-only CPR.

Causes of Heart Attacks

Heart disease is the leading cause of heart attacks. People with heart disease often have atherosclerosis, a condition that causes plaque buildup in arteries. If a plaque ruptures, blood clots can form and block blood flow, causing a heart attack. Learn more about heart disease.

Rarely, someone may experience a spasm, or tightening, of a coronary artery. The spasm cuts off blood flow, causing a heart attack. Even people who do not have heart disease are at risk for a heart attack caused by a severe coronary spasm.  

Risk factors for heart attacks include:

  • High blood pressure

  • High blood cholesterol

  • Diabetes

  • Smoking

  • Excess weight

  • Lack of exercise

  • A diet high in fat, cholesterol and sodium

  • Age

  • Family history of heart disease

Diagnosing a Heart Attack

In addition to a physical exam and evaluation of symptoms, our heart specialists use the latest technology to quickly diagnose heart attacks. If the origin of the pain is unknown and you are considered low risk for a cardiac event, you may be sent to our observation decision unit (ODU).

The ODU is a step between emergency room care and being admitted to the hospital. Here, trained heart experts carefully monitor your condition and complete additional testing, which may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG): This noninvasive procedure measures and records the heart’s electrical activity. The reading shows how fast your heart is beating. It also reveals signs of heart damage due to heart attack or heart disease.

  • Blood tests: Your doctor may check for elevated levels of certain proteins that are released when cells in heart muscle die, indicating that you’ve had a heart attack.

  • Stress test: Your doctor monitors your heart rate as you walk on a treadmill or as medication takes effect. A stress test detects artery disease and gauges your heart’s response to exertion.

  • Coronary angiogram: Your doctor injects contrast dye through a catheter into your coronary arteries. The dye flows into the blood vessels of your heart and any blockages show up on special X-rays.

Heart Attack Treatments

Fast medical treatment is key to saving lives and minimizing the damage to heart muscle. Heart specialists at Blessing perform a variety of lifesaving heart attack treatments. These treatments include:

  • Medications: We follow the latest guidelines and offer a range of medications to treat heart attack. Medications include thrombolytic, or clot-busting, medicine to dissolve clots or plaque that block blood flow to the heart. Nitroglycerin can also improve blood flow.

  • Coronary angioplasty with percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI): Your doctor inserts a thin flexible tube called a catheter through a blood vessel to reach the blocked section of artery. A balloon on the tip of the tube inflates inside the blood vessel. This compresses the plaque and clot against the artery wall, allowing blood to flow. Your doctor may then place a small mesh tube called a stent into the artery to keep it open.

  • Cardiac rehab: After your heart attack, you can participate in Blessing’s cardiac rehab program. Our team of cardiac specialists and exercise physiologists work with you to improve your heart health and fitness level. We also have dietitians and social workers who can help you stop smoking and eat healthier. Learn more about cardiac rehab.


The American Heart Association offers patients tools and resources to help you focus on recovery after a heart attack. The My Cardiac Coach™ is a free mobile app developed by the American Heart Association. It is a personalized recovery toolkit giving you access to progress-trackers for monitoring blood pressure and weight, tools for logging physical activity and managing medications. To learn more about My Cardiac Coach™ or to download the app click here.” 

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment with a cardiologist, please call 217-214-3424To view upcoming heart related events please click here.