ER Nurse, Heart Attack Survivor 

Even a nurse who works with patients in need of emergency care can be caught by surprise. 

Leah Huss never suspected she was at risk for a heart attack until she had one. An avid runner, she couldn't catch her breath one day after her run. That's where her unexpected journey began. 

Read Leah's story.

Heart risk assessment

Are you at risk for heart disease? Find out now with our free online quiz.

Heart Heart Risk Assessment Interactive Quiz. Click here to take the quiz.

Heart Attack

Get help fast

Around one in every six deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart attack. That’s about one death per minute. The American Heart Association estimates that 770,000 Americans will have a new heart attack each year, and 295,000 will have a recurrent attack.*

Surviving a heart attack often depends on how quickly you can begin treatment. It’s important to dial 911 if you think you’re having one.

*2008 data cited in the December 15, 2011, American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Heart attack risk factors

The risk factors for heart attack are easy to spot, and you can control many of them.

Risks you can control

By themselves, these factors might not put you at higher risk of heart disease. But the risk factors add up. The more you have, the greater your chances of having a heart attack.

Risks you can’t control

  • Age: Your risk of heart attack increases with age.
  • Ethnic background: You are at greater risk for heart attack if you are black.
  • Heredity: You are at greater risk for heart attack if your father or brother had heart disease before age 55 and/or your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65.
  • Gender: In the past, men have been at greater risk than women, but the rate of heart attack in women has been increasing since the 1980s.

If you are concerned about your risk, consider an appointment with the Risk Reduction Clinic at The University of Kansas Health System. We can test you and help you with a plan to change your risk factors.

Heart attack symptoms

Know the symptoms of heart attack. Call 911 right away if you notice any of these symptoms.

  • Chest discomfort
    Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest. It can last more than a few minutes or go away and come back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Upper body discomfort
    You may have pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath
    This may occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs
    You may have a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Different symptoms for women

Women may have the symptoms described above. But they also may have different symptoms from men.

  • Cold sweat
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or constant indigestion
  • Pressure between the shoulder blades
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness or extreme fatigue

Not all of these signs occur in every heart attack. Sometimes they go away and return. If you experience some of these, call 911 fast!

Why choose The University of Kansas Health System

We are accredited by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. This means we have the advanced technology to diagnose chest pain symptoms. It also means our team approach quickly and successfully provides the best treatment for chest pain.

In February 2012, our center was the first in Kansas to become accredited as an American Heart Association Mission: Lifeline Heart Attack Receiving Center. This status honors our efforts to speed up treatment for patients with the most deadly type of heart attack – when blood flow to the heart is completely blocked.

Advanced facilities, rapid response

During or after a heart attack, you may need cardiac catheterization to restore blood flow to your heart. Our staff are ready to get you right in to our state-of-the-art catheterization labs. We routinely exceed the national goal of getting a closed artery open within 90 minutes of medical contact.

Leaders in prevention and treatment

We are leaders in both prevention and treatment of heart disease.

  • Our Risk Reduction Clinic is devoted to helping people take control of their heart health.
  • We participate in a variety of clinical trials to improve prevention and treatment of heart disease.
  • Our University of Kansas Medical Center partners are known for innovative heart disease research.
  • People who come to our Regional Heart Attack Center are more likely to survive.
    • In all areas of heart attack care, we exceed the top 10 percent of hospitals nationally. 
    • Our interventional specialists open blocked arteries faster than national standards. 
    • Our patients experience fewer complications than the national average. 
    • Although we take care of sicker patients, our mortality rate for heart attack patients is better than the national standard.

Quality of care

Our heart care center has higher levels of patient satisfaction and lower levels of mortality than national averages would predict. See our full quality report.