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What Is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack happens when blood flow to a section of heart muscle becomes blocked. If the flow of blood isn’t restored quickly, the heart muscle becomes damaged from lack of oxygen and begins to die.
Heart attack is the leading killer of both men and women in the United States
Fortunately, there are excellent treatments for heart attack that can save lives and prevent disabilities, when you get help in time. Treatment is most effective when started as soon as symptoms appear. If you think you or someone you’re with is having a heart attack, call 911 right away.
What Are the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack?
While sudden, crushing pain in the chest is the most recognized sign of a heart attack, not all heart attacks begin that way. In fact, many heat attacks start slowly with just mild pain or discomfort. The warning signs of a heart attack aren’t the same for everyone and some people don’t have any symptoms at all. These symptoms could indicate a heart attack:
- Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack. A tight, uncomfortable feeling in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back could be a heart attack. The discomfort can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. It can be mild or severe. Heart attack pain can sometimes feel like indigestion or heartburn.
- Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach can be a sign of a heart attack.
- Shortness of breath may occur with or before chest discomfort.
- Nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness or fainting, or breaking out in a cold sweat are all possible signs of heart distress.
Not everyone having a heart attack experiences the typical symptoms. If you’ve already had a heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same for another one. The more signs and symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you’re having a heart attack.
Who Is At Risk for a Heart Attack?
Certain risk factors make it more likely that you will develop heart disease or have a heart attack. Some risk factors for heart attack can be controlled, while others can't. These risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High blood sugar (diabetes)
- Weight and obesity
- Physical inactivity
- Age – with risk increasing for men older than 45 and women older than 55
- Family history of heart disease
Get Help Fast
Acting fast at the first sign of a heart attack can save your life and limit damage to your heart. If you think you or someone you know may be having a heart attack:
- Call 911 immediately.
- Go to the hospital in an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin treatment on the way. Do not drive yourself.
- Take a nitroglycerin pill if your doctor has prescribed this type of medicine.
Each year, about one million people in the United States have heart attacks, and almost half of them die. Many more people could recover from heart attacks if they got help faster. Of the people who die from heart attacks, about half die within an hour of the first symptoms and before they reach the hospital.
With fast treatment, the chance of survival increases and many patients go on to lead active, healthier lives.