Heart attack (myocardial infarction)

An overview of services and supports at Providence for people who've had a heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction.


A heart attack happens when an artery that sends blood and oxygen to the heart is blocked. Fatty, cholesterol-containing deposits build up over time. This forms plaques in the heart's arteries. If plaque breaks off, a blood clot can form. The clot can block arteries, causing a heart attack. During a heart attack, a lack of blood flow causes the tissue in the heart muscle to die.

A heart attack is also called a myocardial infarction or MI. A heart attack doesn't have to be deadly. Quick treatment can restore blood flow to the heart and save your life.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat

For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.

NOTE: Immediate treatment is needed for a heart attack to prevent death. Call 911 now if you or a loved one might be having a heart attack.


Dial 911 if you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.

Diagnosis & testing

If you come to the hospital in an ambulance, our care team will begin treatment right away to restore blood flow and limit damage to the heart. You may be given:

  • Aspirin and other medicines to prevent blood clots.
  • Medicines that break up blood clots (thrombolytics).
  • Medicines to decrease the heart's workload and ease pain.

At the hospital, you will have tests, such as:

Treatment & management

When you come to the hospital, your care team will determine next steps. Your treatment may include blood thinners and other medications. It may be recommended that you also get a procedure or surgery to improve the blood flow to your heart. Later you will need to manage your condition with diet, exercise and stress management.

Clinics that treat heart attacks

Support services

Providence Health Care offers a variety of services to support those we care for. The following services may be of use or benefit to you and your families.

Support for Indigenous Peoples

The Indigenous Wellness Liaison Team is here to support your health journey. Team members offer cultural support and healthcare advocacy. Learn more below or call them at 604-682-2344 ext. 62937 or email IWL@providencehealth.bc.ca.

  • Indigenous wellness services

    The Indigenous Wellness Team at Providence is available to support Indigenous patients and their families. We are here to coordinate culturally safe wellness supports and services.

Education & resources

Clinical trials & research

Advances in treatments for heart disease are all thanks to medical research. While participating in research is a decision you should make in consultation with your care team, there is much activity in this field. Please ask us about our research programs if you’re interested.

By taking part in research, you can help us all learn more about heart disease and find better ways to help people like you live and thrive. Even if you don't benefit directly, your participation can help care for future patients.

The following clinical trials are currently enrolling volunteers. Please ask your care team for more information. You can also contact the research team listed on each study or trial. For other information about research at Providence Health Care, please visit  Providence Research.

Medical & professional referrals

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