Heart Attack

Statistics show 64% of women and 50% of men who die suddenly from cardiovascular disease had no symptoms. Dr. Husna Baksh, Medical Director at Healthy Steps in Silver Spring, Maryland, is dedicated to preventing heart disease before it starts. Using tools and interventions that can identify heart disease before the onset of symptoms, Dr. Baksh and her experienced medical team review your genetic risk factors, activity levels, and diet to develop individualized treatment plans that minimize your risk of heart attack.

Heart Attack Q & A

What is a heart attack?

During a heart attack, the flow of blood to specific sections of your heart suddenly becomes blocked. When this happens, your heart can’t get the oxygen it needs. Unless intervention occurs quickly, that muscle segment of your heart can begin to die. A heart attack is a very serious medical event requiring immediate emergency care and life-saving interventions.

What causes a heart attack?

Heart attacks are caused by coronary heart disease, a condition where plaque collects inside your arteries. If left untreated, that plaque can break open and create a blood clot. In some cases, the clot becomes so large that it blocks the blood flow, sometimes leading to permanent damage of the heart muscle. Another cause of heart attack is chronic irregular heartbeats, also called arrhythmias.

Can you tell if my heart is healthy?

Many diagnostic studies exist that help determine your heart’s overall health and function. One such test is the cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET). Using a specially-designed stationary bike, this study gauges your heart’s response to strenuous exercise. It also monitors your blood pressure, your breathing patterns and how much oxygen your body uses during the study, as well as how much carbon dioxide is produced. These measurements help Dr. Baksh assess your cardiovascular and pulmonary function and whether you may have a blockage that can lead to a heart attack.

How do I know if I’m having a heart attack?

One of the reasons heart attacks are such silent and deadly killers is that many people don’t realize they’re having one until it’s too late. Healthy Steps believes in education and empowering you with the information you need to recognize common heart attack symptoms. Warning signs for men and women include:

  • Chest discomfort or pain. You might experience pain in the center or left side of your chest and the pain may last for several minutes, go away, and then come back. Some people describe the sensation as pressure or fullness. These types of symptoms are sometimes mistaken for indigestion.
  • Upper body pain. Discomfort in your arms, shoulders, or back can be symptoms of an impending heart attack. Unexplained pain in your jaw or neck area, or even your upper stomach region can also be warning signs.
  • Feeling short of breath. You might feel unusually winded while resting or after physical activity.
  • Unusual fatigue and exhaustion, nausea, or dizziness.

The important thing to remember is that not all heart attacks have obvious or “classic” symptoms like crushing chest pain. Even patients who’ve had previous heart attacks may have completely different symptoms during a subsequent attack. The bottom line is: If you suspect something is wrong, call 9-1-1 immediately and get your symptoms evaluated by a medical professional.