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Do you know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

By: Shirley Stephen R.N., Public Health Chronic Disease Prevention Nurse

There is no doubt people have seen the act of someone clutching their chest, or rubbing their left arm. But, are you aware of some of the less known and recognized symptoms of a heart attack? Many people do not, and knowing these can mean the difference between life and death.

First, what is a heart attack? A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. It’s very important should you feel any of the symptoms listed below, that you seek medical attention immediately. Time is precious in these situations.

The most common symptoms of a heart attack are:
Chest Pain or uncomfortable squeezing, pressure, or fullness in the center of your chest.
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms.
Shortness of breath (with or without chest pain).

Some of the less recognizable symptoms are:
Pain or discomfort in the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Breaking out in a cold sweat.
Nausea.
Lightheadedness.

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 or vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Many times, people connect a particular symptom to something else without considering a heart attack.

A heart attack does not discriminate between gender, age or race. Most of the time it comes without warning. That’s why it is very important you practice a healthy lifestyle to reduce your chances of falling victim to a heart attack.
Don’t smoke, and avoid other people’s tobacco smoke.
Treat high blood pressure, if you have it.
Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and salt.
Exercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week.
Keep your weight in the normal range.
See your doctor for regular check-ups.
Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.
Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.

In recognition of Nation Heart Health Month, take time this February to commit to reducing your risk of a heart attack. For more information on ways to keep your heart healthy, visit our website at www.cghealth.com.

*What is a Heart Attack? (2007). American Heart Association Website. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from www.heart.org

*What are the Warning Signs of Heart Attack? (2007). American Heart Association Website. Retrieved February 16, 2015, from www.heart.org

*Signs of a Heart Attack or Stroke. (2014). Go Red For Women Heart Health Guide, pg. 4.

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