Heart Attack

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woman with hands over her heart and heart diagram

Think you're having a heart attack?

Call 9-1-1 right away. EMTs can provide life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack (myocardial infarction) happens when one of the coronary arteries that brings oxygen-rich blood to your heart becomes blocked.

The block is usually caused by fatty cholesterol (plaque) building up on the walls of an artery. The medical term for this process is atherosclerosis, or coronary artery disease. If the plaque breaks away and forms a clot, the artery becomes blocked and blood flow stops, causing a heart attack.

A STEMI (ST elevation myocardial infarction) is the most serious type of heart attack. It occurs if an artery is completely blocked. A STEMI causes a lot of damage to your heart and requires immediate help. At Baystate Health, we treat more people who have had a STEMI than any other hospital in Massachusetts —that’s more than 300 STEMI patients each year.

Number One in Western Massachusetts for Heart Attack Care

A heart attack can be deadly if you don’t receive the right treatment, right away. If you think you or a loved one is having a heart attack, rely on Baystate Medical Center for lifesaving treatment. Call 911 immediately.

Baystate Medical Center is currently the only hospital in our region that can stop a heart attack. Treatment to stop a heart attack includes cardiac catheterization, balloon angioplasty, and stenting. These are all done in our cath lab (cardiac catheterization lab), which is open 24 hours a day for emergencies.

Additionally, Baystate Medical Center serves all patients in Western Massachusetts who are having a STEMI. Local hospital partners, who recognize that the best way to open a blocked artery is by stents, refer all of their STEMI cases to us.

Heart Care that Exceeds National Standards

Baystate Health regularly ranks among the top heart centers in the country. We offer:

  • The only cardiac (heart) catheterization laboratory available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for heart and vascular specialists to immediately unblock arteries
  • Lifesaving angioplasty up to 25 minutes sooner than the national standard
  • A “door-to-balloon” time that ranks in the top 10% in the nation, which significantly increases the chance of surviving a heart attack. Door-to-balloon time means the time between patients entering hospital doors and receiving treatment (balloon angioplasty) to stop a heart attack
Risk Factors

There are many factors that can increase your risk for having a heart attack. Some are out of your control, but many are in your control.

Risk factors for heart attack include:

  • Your age: Men who are 45 or older and women who are 55 or older are more likely to have a heart attack.
  • Your family history: If your brothers, sisters, parents, or grandparents had heart attacks, you are more likely to have one.
  • Being obese.
  • Smoking.
  • Having diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.

Signs of a heart attack include:

  • Angina, which is pain, pressure, or tightness in your chest, arms, neck, jaw or back.
  • Nausea, heartburn, or stomach pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Sweating

If you’ve had a heart attack, specialists work quickly to unblock the artery and treat your condition. They will also monitor your heart using tests that may include:

Learn more about how we diagnose heart conditions.


Treatment for a heart attack may include:

Coronary angioplasty and stenting (also known as a balloon angioplasty)

Your doctor makes a small puncture hole into one or more of your blood vessels (usually in the groin or wrist area). A small wire with a balloon on the end is sent up into a blocked artery in your heart. Your doctor inflates the balloon to push the plaque (fatty deposits) against the artery wall. This makes more room for blood to flow. If necessary, a stent is then placed in the artery to maintain blood flow. A stent is a metal, mesh tube that is placed in the artery to help it stay open after angioplasty.

Coronary artery bypass surgery (also known as a heart bypass)

Your doctor uses an artery or vein from your chest wall, arm, or leg to send blood around the blocked artery. Blood goes around, or bypassing, the blocked artery and can bring oxygen to your heart.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

After a heart attack or heart surgery, you will need cardiovascular rehabilitation. Cardiac rehab helps you:

  • Recover from surgery
  • Return to normal activities
  • Take medications correctly
  • Make positive lifestyle changes

People who take part in cardiac rehab after a heart attack typically live longer and are less likely to have another heart attack.

Our Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Program is certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). Programs that receive AACVPR certification undergo a rigorous review process to ensure the program meets the highest standards for cardiovascular rehabilitation care.

The Best Heart Care in Western Massachusetts

Your heart is in good hands with Baystate Health’s cardiologists, specialists, and nurses. We have the experience, expertise, and equipment to help you get back to your best life with as little down time as possible. We deliver excellent heart and vascular care in western Massachusetts.

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