Thumbnail image of: Heart, External View: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Plaque Buildup in Arteries: Illustration

Heart Attack: Brief Version

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack happens when the blood vessels don’t bring enough blood and oxygen to the heart.

Fat can build up in blood vessels. This buildup of fat, called plaque, can make it harder for blood to travel through the blood vessels to the heart. Plaque can also break open and form a blood clot. The blood clot can block blood flow to the heart. If the blood flow is blocked too long, the heart muscle dies. When the muscle dies, the heart cannot pump blood to the rest of the body as well as it should. Too much damage to the heart can cause death.

What are the symptoms?

Not everyone has the same symptoms. You may:

  • Feel pressure or pain in your chest
  • Feel pain in your arm, shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Sweat for no known reason

Along with these symptoms, you may also feel very tired, faint, or be sick to your stomach.

If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 911 right away. Don’t wait.

How is it treated?

If you have had a heart attack, you will be treated at the hospital.

  • Your healthcare provider will give you medicine for blood clots.
  • You may be given other medicines to help you feel better and to prevent damage to your heart.
  • You may need to surgery or another procedure to open up or go around blocked parts of your arteries.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow your healthcare provider’s treatment plan.

Try to have a heart healthy lifestyle.

  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Lose weight if you need to. Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Stay fit with the right kind of exercise for you.
  • Don’t smoke.

If prescribed by your healthcare provider, carry emergency heart medicine with you. Learn when and how to take it. Keep a list of all of your medicines and how much and when you should take them.

Get specific instructions from your healthcare provider on how to take care of yourself when you have chest pain, including:

  • What medicines you should take
  • When to call your provider
  • When to call 911

Getting help right away when you are having a heart attack improves your chances of staying alive. It may also help keep your heart from being damaged.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-02
Last reviewed: 2014-11-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

Patient Portal

myTuftsMed is our new online patient portal that provides you with access to your medical information in one place. MyTuftsMed can be accessed online or from your mobile device providing a convenient way to manage your health care needs from wherever you are.

With myTuftsMed, you can:

  1. View your health information including your medications, test results, scheduled appointments, medical bills even if you have multiple doctors in different locations.
  2. Make appointments at your convenience, complete pre-visit forms and medical questionnaires and find care or an emergency room.
  3. Connect with a doctor no matter where you are.
  4. Keep track of your children’s and family members’ medical care, view upcoming appointments, book visits and review test results.
  5. Check in on family members who need extra help, all from your private account.


Your privacy is important to us. Learn more about ourwebsite privacy policy. X