Issue 7 Stories
Health Matters

Think It May Be a Heart Attack? Call 911 Right Away!

Heart attack is one of the most common causes of preventable death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack every 40 seconds. That’s almost 800,000 people each year. Heart disease affects both men and women, and more women die each year from heart attack than from breast cancer.

With that many people being affected, it’s important to recognize a heart attack when it occurs and seek medical help immediately.

Know the Signs and Symptoms

Your chances of surviving a heart attack with little or no damage to your heart depends on recognizing the signs and symptoms and calling 911 immediately if you’re experiencing these symptoms, or if someone with you is having them.

The “classic” signs of heart attack in men and in some women include:

•   Chest discomfort, which may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, especially under the breastbone (sternum)

•   Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including one or both arms, the back, neck or jaw

•   Shortness of breath, which may occur before, with or without chest discomfort—especially shortness of breath when you exert yourself

•   Sweating

•   Nausea (with or without vomiting)

•   Cold, clammy skin

In some women, the signs of heart attack can be less distinct, and may include the following:

•   Fatigue

•   Nausea (with or without vomiting)

•   Sudden onset of shortness of breath, with or without chest pain or discomfort

•   A generalized feeling that “something isn’t right”

•   Confusion (especially in older women)

Call 911 Immediately

•   It can’t be emphasized enough—if you suspect that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 right away.

•   DO NOT try to drive yourself or your family member to the hospital. The emergency response team can assess the patient on the way to the hospital, and can call ahead to let the hospital know they’re on their way in with a heart attack patient. When the patient arrives, the emergency room staff and heart team will be waiting for the patient and can begin appropriate care right away.

•   Not sure if it’s a heart attack? Call 911 anyway!

What Causes a Heart Attack?

Like all other parts of the body, the muscles that make up the heart rely on a constant supply of blood for oxygen and other nutrients. If one of the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to the heart tissue, becomes blocked, a heart attack can occur. The heart tissue that is deprived of blood begins to die. Depending on the location and severity of the blockage, the person can suffer permanent heart damage or death. That’s why it’s important to seek medical attention right away when there’s even a suspicion that someone is having a heart attack.

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