Learning to recognize the warning signs and risk factors can help people avoid a heart attack. When a person has a heart attack, knowing what to do and acting quickly can help you have a better outcome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a person suffers a heart attack every 40 seconds in the world. A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage of blood flow to the heart. When a blood flow obstruction occurs, it can damage or even kill parts of the heart tissue. While movies can depict heart attacks as if they happened suddenly, many heart attacks start slowly and have many warning signs.
The main symptoms of heart attack include the following:
- Chest pain or discomfort: Chest pain or discomfort may feel like pressure, tightness, or a sensation of compression.
- Shortness of breath: This can occur with or without chest pain.
- Discomfort in other parts of the body: The back, both arms and shoulders, neck or jaw can also be uncomfortable during a heart attack.
While both men and women can experience the main signs and symptoms of a heart attack, the symptoms we’ve listed above are more common in men. Women are more likely to experience additional signs and symptoms. These include:
- Nausea and an upset stomach.
- Abdominal pain.
- Cold sweat.
- Sudden dizziness
What to do
A heart attack is a life-threatening medical emergency. If someone is having a heart attack, they should immediately call 911 for emergency help before doing anything else. Acting quickly can help save someone’s life.
If a person is having a heart attack, calling their country’s emergency number is often a better course of action than taking the individual to the emergency room. Paramedics usually get to a person faster than they can get to the emergency room. Also, when paramedics arrive, they can begin salvage treatment immediately. If the person having the heart attack is unconscious, someone on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training should begin CPR. If there is a defibrillator available and someone knows how to use it, they should use it after performing CPR, if necessary.
If you are alone
If a person is alone and experiences any symptoms of a heart attack, they should call 911 immediately.They must then take aspirin, if available, and open the door for paramedics to have access. They should then lie down near the door, but not blocking it, so that the paramedics can easily find them.
Causes and risk factors.
A person must be aware of her risk factors so that they can take steps to prevent a heart attack. There are some heart attack risk factors that people can influence and others that they cannot.
Heart attack risk factors that people cannot influence include:
- Age: While heart disease affects people of all ages, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), the majority of people who die from coronary heart disease are adults over the age of 65.
- Gender: Men are more likely than women to have a heart attack and to die.
Family history: People with a significant family history of heart disease are more likely to have a heart attack.
- Race and Ethnicity: Some ethnic groups, including African Americans, some Asians, and Mexican Americans, are more likely to have a heart attack than others.
While people cannot influence the above risk factors, there are many risk factors that they can modify or treat to prevent a heart attack. Modifiable risk factors for heart disease and heart attack include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol.
- Unhealthy diet high in saturated fat and sodium.
- Tobacco use.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Not getting enough exercise.
The best way to prevent a heart attack is to reduce any risk factors. People can reduce their chances of a heart attack by:
- Lose weight if you are obese or overweight.
- Treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol by consulting a doctor.
- Control diabetes through diet, medication, and blood sugar control.
- Eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits and low in saturated fat and processed foods.
- Stop smoking or using tobacco products.
- Limit alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men or one per day for women.
- Get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.
Also, a person should have regular check-ups with their doctor. Regular check-ups can help identify new risk factors for heart disease that a person may develop and monitor those they already have.