Heart Attack - Minnesota Department of Health

About Heart Attacks

Nearly 805,000 people in the United States have a heart attack every year. In 2019 in Minnesota, 3.2% of adults reported ever having had a heart attack in their lifetime- over 150,000 people.

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when the vessels supplying blood to the heart become blocked. Heart muscle tissue is deprived of oxygen, resulting in tissue death also known as ischemia. The more time that passes without treatment the greater risk of damage to the heart.

Blockage can occur slowly through the buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances, called plaque. This slow process is known as atherosclerosis. If the plaque breaks open and a blood clot forms that blocks the blood flow, a heart attack occurs. This is the most common cause of a heart attack.

Heart attacks are an emergency and recognizing the signs and symptoms can save a life!

Signs and symptoms

Learn and share the warning signs of heart attack. Someone having a heart attack may experience only one, or several of these warning signs. Don't delay. Call 9-1-1 at the first sign of heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling weak, nausea or lightheadedness.

If you are possibly having a heart attack, it is an emergency. Call 9-1-1 immediately!

Treatment and STEMI

Call 911 and get to the hospital at the first sign of heart attack so you can be evaluated and receive treatment right away. Timely treatment may decrease the likelihood of disability or death caused by heart attack.

A STEMI (ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction) is the most severe type of heart attack. About 3,000 Minnesotans experience a STEMI and an additional 7,000 Minnesotans experience non-STEMIs each year.

Patients experiencing a STEMI need immediate care to reopen the blocked artery. The goal is to open the blocked artery within 90 minutes of the start of the heart attack.

The preferred treatment is called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), which physically removes the blockage using a catheter and stent to keep the artery open. If patients are unable to be treated with PCI, they will usually receive medication to break up the clot, called thrombolytic therapy.

Presently, only a select group of large Minnesota hospitals have the equipment to perform the preferred treatment for STEMI. MDH designates hospitals as STEMI Receiving Centers to ensure Minnesotans receive the best STEMI care possible. Read more about STEMI Systems of Care.

Key facts:

  • Thirty percent of STEMI patients fail to receive PCI or thrombolytic therapy.
  • Of those who receive PCI, only forty percent are treated within 90 minutes.
  • Of those who receive thrombolytic therapy, fewer than half are treated within the recommended door-to-needle timeframe of 30 minutes.
  • Seventy percent of those patients who aren’t eligible for thrombolytic therapy fail to receive PCI, the only other option to restore blood flow to blocked arteries.

Risk Factors and Heart Attack Prevention

There are some risk factors that cannot be changed such as race, sex, age, and family history. However, there are things you can do to try to lower your chances of having a heart attack.

  • Manage your blood pressure. Learn more about knowing and managing your blood pressure numbers on the High Blood Pressure webpage.
  • Manage your cholesterol levels. For more information, visit the American Heart Association's Control Your Cholesterol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Stay active and eat healthy meals.
  • Quit smoking. Visit the Minnesota QUITPARTNER or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) for tools and support to quit tobacco.
  • Manage your diabetes. People with diabetes can lower their risk of stroke by controlling their blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol. .
  • Take all of your medications as prescribed.
  • Attend your follow up appointments as scheduled.

Additional Resources

Updated Tuesday, 10-May-2022 11:22:25 CDT