Heart Attack Awareness

About every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.

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What is a Heart Attack?

A Heart Attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or stopped. This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly become thicker and harder from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances, called plaque. This slow process is known as atherosclerosis. If the plaque breaks open and a blood clot forms that blocks the blood flow, a heart attack occurs.

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Don’t wait to get help if you experience any of these heart attack warning signs. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call 911 if you experience:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

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

  • Shortness of breath. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.

  • Other signs. Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Call 911 if you experience heart attack warning signs.

Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment.

An emergency medical services (EMS) team can begin treatment when they arrive. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. 

For many reasons, it’s best to call 911 so that an experienced EMS team can begin treatment and arrange rapid transport to the emergency room.