Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

Reduce Your Risk of a Heart Attack or Heart Failure

We all know the terms “heart failure” and “heart attack,” but do we really know the difference? Both of these terms signify a serious cardiac event that requires immediate medical attention. However, each condition has different causes, symptoms and treatments.

Are You at Risk for Heart Disease?

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Are You at Risk for Heart Disease?


Are You at Risk for Heart Disease?

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Reduce Your Risk

Learn more about the preventive steps you can take to lower your risk for heart disease and how the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Maintenance and Prevention Programs can help.

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Heart Attack

Causes of Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked by a clot or plaque buildup in the arteries. When blood flow is blocked, the muscle begins to die. This requires immediate medical attention to relieve the blockage and restore oxygen flow to the heart.

Symptoms of Heart Attack

Symptoms may start slowly and go on for hours, days or weeks before an event actually happens. Symptoms are not the same for everyone. Some may feel chest pain, shortness of breath or fatigue in the moments leading up to the attack.

During the heart attack, symptoms include pain in the middle of the chest and/or in your back, jaw or arms. Sudden symptoms may also include:

  • Faintness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heavy pounding of the heart
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Anxiety
  • Bluish lips, hands or feet

Heart failure

Causes of Heart Failure

Heart failure happens when blood is flowing to the heart through a narrow or blocked passageway and gradually becomes weaker. When the heart is not able to get as much blood supply as it needs, it can fail. Heart failure is usually a long-term, chronic condition but it may come on suddenly. It is usually the result of another disease like coronary artery disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Failure

In the early stages, heart failure symptoms may not show at all. When they do start to appear, you may notice weight gain, nausea, or other signs that you might not associate with the heart. Common symptoms include:

  • Dry, hacking cough, especially when lying down
  • Confusion, sleepiness and disorientation in older people
  • Dizziness, fainting, fatigue or weakness
  • Increased urination at night
  • Rapid breathing
  • Bluish skin
  • Feelings of anxiety or restlessness
  • Shortness of breath and lung congestion
  • Wheezing and spasms in the airway, similar to asthma

While these conditions are more likely to occur in people of an advanced age, heart failure can happen to anyone. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, contact your physician immediately.

Learn more about lowering your risk for cardiac disease