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Chattanooga, TN 37403

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Patient Education

What is a heart attack? Facts everyone should know.

A heart attack occurs when one or more regions of the heart muscle experiences a severe or prolonged lack of oxygen caused by blocked blood flow.  Due to the lack of oxygen, minutes can make the difference betweeen life or death.  The faster you get treatment, the better your chance of survival.  The national average of door to heart catherization time is less than 90 minutes.  At Erlanger's Chest Pain Center, our goal is to achieve a door-to-intervention time of less than 62 minutes.  Erlanger follows a special protocol called Code STEMI to ensure that heart attack patients are evaluated and treated faster.

Warning signs for men and women:

It's important to know the classic symptoms of a heart attack—and to know that, in women, the symptoms are often different, or more subtle.  Women's heart attach symptoms are often misdiagnosed, due to the fact that many do not experience chest pain.

General Symptoms:

  • Most heart attaches involve discomfort in the center of the chest, which may last more than a few minutes or may go away and return over time.   Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain may occur in the chest .  Many people who experience a heart attack have warning signs and symptoms hours, days or even weeks in advance.
  • Discomfort in other parts of the upper body.  Pain may spread to the neck, jaw, shoulders, arms or stomach.  The pain may be mild to intense. 
  • Anxiety, nervousness, and/or cold, sweaty skin
  • Shortness of breath may include lightheadedness, fainting, sweating or nausea. 
  • Any unexplained symptoms that come with exertion and go away with rest

Symptoms more common in women include:

While there is no way to predict just how a heart attack will present itself, there are several symptoms that women are more likely to experience-- and may often mistake for something less serious- including:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that last more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Anxiety
  • Clammy skin
  • Feeling lightheaded or experience dizziness 
  • Nausea or light-headedness

Remember—there are no hard, fast rules. As with men and women the most common heart attack is chest pain or discomfort.  If you have any of the above signs and symptoms (particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting or back or jaw pain) and believe you might be having a heart attack, don't wait.  Call 9-1-1 and get to the hospital righ way. And many of these warning signs are easily mistaken for something else. So never second-guess your symptoms.


Take the Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC) Pledge:


I understand that heart attacks have beginnings and on occasion, signs of an impending heart attack may include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, shoulder and/or arm pain and weakness.  These may occure hours or weeks before the actual heart attack.  I solemnly swear that if it happens to me or anyone I know, I will call 9-1-1 or active our Emergency Medical Services. (EMS).

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms call 911 and go to the Chest Pain Center immediately.


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UT  Erlanger Cardiology

Downtown office (Medical Mall)
979 East 3rd Street
Suite C-520
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Valet Parking Available
Easy Access


Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Gunbarrel office
1614 Gunbarrel Rd.
Chattanooga, TN 37421
Easy Access


Monday – Friday
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.


Erlanger at Hutcheson
102 Gross Crescent Circle, Suite 303
Fort Olgethorpe, GA, 30743



Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.