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Heart Attacks

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. CHD is caused by a narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart, and often results in a heart attack.

Each year, about 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack. About 460,000 of those heart attacks are fatal. About half of those deaths occur within 1 hour of the start of symptoms and before the person reaches the hospital.

Fortunately, everyone can take steps to protect their heart–and their life or that of someone else. The key is seeking medical care as soon as possible.

This Web page tells you about heart attack and the steps you can take to increase your chances of survival. You’ll learn why a fast response to the signs of a heart attack is crucial to save lives and limit heart damage.

What Is A Heart Attack?

The heart works 24 hours a day, pumping oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the body. Blood is supplied to the heart through its coronary arteries. In coronary heart disease (CHD), plaques or fatty substances build up inside the walls of the arteries. The plaques also attract blood components, which stick to the artery wall lining. Called atherosclerosis, the process develops gradually, over many years. It often begins early in life, even in childhood.

The fatty buildup or plaque can break open and lead to the formation of a blood clot that seals the break. The clot reduces blood flow. The cycle of fatty buildup, plaque rupture, and blood clot formation causes the coronary arteries to narrow, reducing blood flow.

When too little blood reaches the heart, the condition is called ischemia. Chest pain, or angina, may occur. The pain can vary in occurrence and be mild and intermittent, or more pronounced and steady. It can be severe enough to make normal everyday activities difficult. The same inadequate blood supply also may cause no symptoms, a condition called silent ischemia.

If a blood clot suddenly cuts off most or all blood supply to the heart, a heart attack results. Cells in the heart muscle that do not receive enough oxygen-carrying blood begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.



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Heart Attack Warning Signs

A heart attack is a frightening event, and you probably don't want to think about it. But, if you learn the signs of a heart attack and what steps to take, you can save a life–maybe your own.

What are the signs of a heart attack? Many people think a heart attack is sudden and intense, like a "movie" heart attack, where a person clutches his or her chest and falls over.

The truth is that many heart attacks start slowly, as a mild pain or discomfort. If you feel such a symptom, you may not be sure what's wrong. Your symptoms may even come and go. Even those who have had a heart attack may not recognize their symptoms, because the next attack can have entirely different ones.

It's vital that everyone learn the warning signs of a heart attack. These are:

Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.

Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

Learn the signs–but also remember: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, you should still have it checked out. Fast action can save lives-maybe your own.

Women and Heart Attack

If you're a woman, you may not believe you're as vulnerable to a heart attack as men–but you are. Women account for nearly half of all heart attack deaths. Heart disease is the number one killer of both women and men.

There are differences in how women and men respond to a heart attack. Women are less likely than men to believe they're having a heart attack and more likely to delay in seeking emergency treatment.

Further, women tend to be about 10 years older than men when they have a heart attack. They are more likely to have other conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure–making it all the more vital that they get proper treatment fast.

Women should learn the heart attack warning signs. These are:

Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest.

Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

Other symptoms, such as a shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

If you feel heart attack symptoms, do not delay. Remember, minutes matter! Do not wait for more than a few minutes–5 minutes at most–to call 9-1-1. Your family will benefit most if you seek fast treatment.


* 1. Do you smoke?

* 2. Is your blood pressure 140/90 mm Hg or higher, OR you have been told by your doctor that your blood pressure is too high?

* 3. Has your doctor told you that your total cholesterol level is 200 mg/dL or higher or your HDL (good cholesterol) is less than 40mg/dL?

* 4. Has your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55 OR your mother or sister had one before age 65?

* 5. Do you have diabetes OR a fasting blood sugar of 126mg/dL or higher, OR do you need medicine to control your blood sugar?

* 6. Are you a man over 45 years of age?

* 7. Are you a woman over 55 years old?

* 8. Do you have a body mass index (BMI) score of 25 or more?

* 9. Do you get less than a total of 30 minutes of physical activity on most days?

* 10. Has a doctor told you that you have angina (chest pains), or have you had a heart attack?



warning
The information in this section is not meant to diagnose your medical problem; it is for informational purposes only. Please consult your medical doctor if you have any questions about your health. All information copied with permission from

Stockbridge Area Emergency Services Authority 125 S. Center St. Stockbridge, MI 49285 Contact Us