February is American Heart Month. Now is the time to make sure that you and your loved ones are following a heart-healthy lifestyle. You should also know the signs of heart attack, what to do about them, and how to talk to your health care provider about heart health.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. The most common heart disease in the United States is coronary heart disease, which often appears as a heart attack. About every 26 seconds, an American will have a coronary event. One American will die from a heart attack every minute.
There are many ways that Americans can learn more about staying heart healthy and understanding heart attacks. There are also important terms for you to understand—from acute coronary syndrome and angina to digitalis and diuretics. The following pages offer information to help you better understand your own heart truth.
- Each year over a million people in the United States have a heart attack. About half of them die.
- It's important to know the symptoms of a heart attack and call 9-1-1 if someone is having them. Symptoms include—chest discomfort, such as pressure, squeezing, or pain; shortness of breath; discomfort in the upper body, such as the arms, shoulder, neck, back; nausea, vomiting, dizziness, light-headedness, and sweating. Any symptoms that cause you concern should be checked with a health care professional as soon as possible.
- 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.
- Most attacks happen when a clot in the coronary artery blocks the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. Often this leads to an irregular heartbeat—called an arrhythmia—that causes a severe decrease in the pumping function of the heart. If the blockage is not treated within a few hours, the affected heart muscle dies.
- Signs of heart attack in women are often very different from those associated with men (shortness of breath, tightening in the chest). If women of any age experience things like dizziness or discomfort in the upper body, they should immediately contact 9-1-1.