Available at the following centers:
Kapiolani Pali Momi Straub Wilcox

What It Is

Your coronary arteries bring fresh blood and oxygen to your heart. And since your heart is a muscle, it needs this fuel to function properly. When the flow of blood to your heart is either completely cut off or severely reduced, a heart attack occurs.

Did You Know:

  • Once every 40 seconds or so, someone in America has a heart attack.
  • Most heart attacks occur in the morning a few hours after waking.
  • Most heart attacks occur on a Monday.


Some heart attacks are instantaneous and intense. But some come on slowly such that many people aren’t sure if they’re having one. Err on the side of caution. Pay attention to your body and don’t wait to get help. Call 911 right away if you experience:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks exhibit sensation in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. Or it may be intermittent. The sensation can be anything ranging from uncomfortable pressure to a feeling of squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. You may also experience pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This can occur on its own, or in combination with chest discomfort.
  • Other signs. Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness, a feeling of doom are other possible heart attack signals.


Heart attacks can happen to anyone, at any age and from any background. However, certain factors put you at a higher risk. Some of the factors are within your control, and some of them aren’t. The good news is, regardless of who you are, there are still actions you can take to lessen your overall risk quotient for a heart attack.

Risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides
  • A family history of heart disease--particularly if it occurred before age 55
  • Men are at greater risk than women, even as young as 40
  • Are 65 or older
  • Post-menopausal for women
  • Have diabetes
  • Smoke, including chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes (vaping)
  • Live a stressful lifestyle
  • Abuse alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • Are overweight
  • Eat a diet high in saturated fat and low in fiber


Your best line of defense to prevent a heart attack is to avoid cigarettes, manage your stress level, eat fresh, healthy foods (avoiding fried, fatty, refined carbohydrates or processed foods), and getting regular moderate exercise.

Done consistently, walking and spending time in nature are easy, gentle ways to get your weight and stress level under control. Activities such as yoga and meditation can have been proven to lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate.

Talk with your doctor about choosing which lifestyle changes are appropriate for you. Remember that commitment to change is the key to success.

Learn about Treatment Options for Heart Attacks