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Heart Attack Warning Signs
Symptoms of a heart attack can include, but are not limited to:
- Uncomfortable pressure, fullness or squeezing pain the center of your chest, lasting more than a few minutes.
- Pain or discomfort in your shoulders, jaw, neck or arms.
- Lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.
Whether you suspect a heart attack or think it's just indigestion, act immediately. Be aware that you may not have all of these symptoms, and symptoms can come and go.
If you believe you or someone else may be experiencing a heart attack:
- Call 911 first.
- Sit quietly or lie down if you are feeling faint. Breathe slowly and deeply.
- Take a single aspirin tablet, unless you are allergic to it.
Arrhythmia (Heart Rhythm)
Heart rhythm problems, or heart arrhythmias, occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don't work properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.
Heart arrhythmias may feel like a fluttering or racing heart, and they may be harmless. However, some heart arrhythmias can cause bothersome — sometimes even life-threatening — signs and symptoms. However, arrhythmias may not cause any signs or symptoms.
Your health care provider may find that you have an arrhythmia before you do during a routine examination. Noticeable signs and symptoms don't necessarily mean you have a serious problem.
Noticeable arrhythmia symptoms can include:
- A fluttering in your chest
- A racing heartbeat
- A slow heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Causes and risk factors
Certain conditions can increase your risk of developing an arrhythmia, including:
- Coronary artery disease, other heart problems and previous heart surgery — narrowed heart arteries, a heart attack, abnormal heart valves, prior heart surgery, heart failure and other heart damage are risk factors for almost any kind of arrhythmia.
- High blood pressure — this increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease. It may also cause the walls of your left ventricle to become stiff and thick, which can change how electrical impulses travel through your heart.
- Congenital heart disease — being born with a heart abnormality may affect your heart's rhythm.
- Thyroid problems — having an overactive or underactive thyroid gland can raise your risk of arrhythmias.
- Diabetes — your risk of developing coronary artery disease and high blood pressure greatly increases with uncontrolled diabetes.
- Obstructive sleep apnea — this disorder, where your breathing is interrupted during sleep, can increase your risk of bradycardia, atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias.
- Electrolyte imbalance — substances in your blood called electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium, trigger and conduct the electrical impulses in your heart. Electrolyte levels that are too high or too low can affect your heart's electrical impulses and contribute to arrhythmia development.
Cardiac ablation works by scarring the tissues in your heart that trigger the abnormal heart rhythm. In some cases, it prevents abnormal electrical signals from entering your heart and stops the arrhythmia.
Cardiac ablation uses long, flexible tubes inserted through a vein or artery in your groin, and threaded to your heart to deliver heat or cold to modify the tissues in your heart that are causing the arrhythmia.
Treatment for heart arrhythmias also may involve use of an implantable device:
- Pacemaker — a pacemaker is an implantable device that controls abnormal heart rhythms. A small device is placed under the skin near the collarbone in a minor surgical procedure. An insulated wire extends from the device to the heart, where it's permanently anchored.
If a pacemaker detects a heart rate that's abnormal, it emits electrical impulses that stimulate your heart to beat at a normal rate.
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) — your health care provide may recommend this device if you're at high risk of developing a dangerously fast or irregular heartbeat in the lower half of your heart. An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator is a battery-powered unit that's implanted under the skin near the collarbone — similar to a pacemaker. One or more electrode-tipped wires from the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator run through veins to the heart. The implantable cardioverter-defibrillator continuously monitors your heart rhythm.
If it detects an abnormal heart rhythm, it sends out low- or high-energy shocks to reset the heart to a normal rhythm. An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator doesn't prevent an abnormal heart rhythm from occurring, but it treats it if it occurs.
- Leadless Pacemaker — for a select number of patients who are candidates, our cardiology experts offer a leadless pacemaker option. A leadless pacemaker is approximately 90% smaller than traditional transvenous pacemakers and is implanted directly into the ventricle of the heart using a transcatheter. This approach requires no chest incision or visible indicator that the pacemaker is there and reduces the risk of infection and complications associated with the incision and placement of a traditional pacemaker. Learn more about conventional versus leadless pacemakers.
- Implantable Loop Recorder — when needed, Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse can utilize an implantable loop recorder that records your heart rhythm continuously for up to three years. The device records the electrical signals of your heart and allows remote monitoring through a small devise, smaller than a key, that is inserted just beneath the skin of the chest. An implantable loop recorder is invisible and doesn't interfere with your daily activities. It has no patches or wires, and you don't have to worry about getting the device wet while bathing or swimming.
The procedure to insert the device can be done through a minor procedure by one of our cardiologists. After the device is implanted, the device records the electrical impulses of your heart and transmits them automatically to your doctor by way of the internet and wireless technology. All you need to do is keep the transmission monitor your doctor gives you beside your bed while you sleep.
- Subcutaneous ICD — a subcutaneous ICD (S-ICD) is a newer type of ICD available in La Crosse. An S-ICD is implanted under the skin at the side of the chest below the armpit. It's attached to an electrode that runs along your breastbone. You may be a candidate for this device if you have structural defects in your heart that prevent inserting wires to the heart through your blood vessels, or if you have other reasons for wanting to avoid traditional ICDs. Implanting a subcutaneous ICD is less invasive than an ICD that attaches to the heart, leading to a lower rate of infections and complications. In addition, S-ICDs tend to be more cosmetically appealing for patients due to its placement closer to the side of the body below the armpit versus its traditional location on the abdomen or top of the chest.