Heart & Stroke Emergencies

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke. The following information on angina, strokes and myocardial infarction can save your life or that of a loved one.

In the past few years, clot-busting drugs, angioplasty and other techniques have revolutionized the way paramedics and emergency room personnel treat heart and stroke emergencies. A few years ago, stroke victims were sent off for physical rehabilitation, but today, if the onset of a stroke can be detected rapidly, most victims can benefit from emergency drug therapy that can often reverse the debilitating effects of a stroke. The same drug therapy and treatment also applies to victims of certain types of heart attacks.

Myocardial Infarction and Heart Attack

Myocardial infarction is often called a 'Heart Attack'. Also known as an M.I., a myocardial infarction results from a lack of blood flow to an area of the heart causing the destruction of heart muscle tissue to occur .

What causes a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is either partially or completely blocked. The blockage can be caused by plaque buildup (deposits of fat like substances) in one or more of the coronary arteries that are responsible for feeding the heart muscle. The plaque can rupture or tear creating a blockage. With the blood flow to the heart completely blocked the cells of the heart are then deprived of their much needed oxygen and nutrients, death of heart tissue results.

What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

Discomfort in the center of the chest which may feel like a crushing pressure, sharp pain, tightness, squeezing, or burning sensation

Chest pain may be mild to very severe

Pain may spread to the shoulders, arms, neck, or jaw


Shortness of breath

Nausea and/or vomiting

Pale, sweaty skin

Rapid or irregular heart rate

It is important to note that not all signs and symptoms may be present during a heart attack.

What to do when someone is having a heart attack?

Immediately call 9-1-1 and ask for an ambulance

Stop any activity you are doing

Have the person sit or lie down

Do not drive yourself to the hospital

Take medication, but only if indicated by your physician and only as prescribed

What will the ambulance do when they arrive?

They will take vital signs - your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate

Deliver oxygen through a mask

The paramedics may give you medication to treat your heart and to help you breathe

An electrocardiogram (ECG) may be performed. This takes a picture of the heart which helps the paramedics better understand what is happening. The paramedics will place little stickers (electrodes) on your chest and body

An intravenous line may started

Medication may also be given for pain relief

How to prevent a heart attack?

Exercise regularly. Exercise has proven to strengthen the heart and reduce the incidence of heart disease

Eat healthy. Proper diet and nutrition will also reduce your risk for a heart disease

Lower the amount of salt and cholesterol in your diet

See your doctor regularly.

Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of heart disease

Learn different methods to reduce your stress

If your family has a history of heart disease, tell your physician. Ask your doctor how you can reduce the chances of developing heart disease.

Wear a medic alert bracelet to identify your medical condition

Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor