Who's at risk for a heart attack?
- You smoke or are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.
- You have high blood pressure, high "bad" cholesterol, diabetes, an abnormal heartbeat or a family history of heart disease.
- You've taken birth control pills and smoked.
- You're overweight or post-menopausal.
- You've previously had a heart attack or have coronary artery disease.
- You don't exercise.
Heart attacks generally occur because plaque buildup inside the coronary arteries, which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart, decreases blood flow to the heart muscle. Blood clots resulting from ruptured plaque block the flow entirely, resulting in a heart attack. Some heart attacks result from heart or genetic defects.
Both men and women may experience any or all of the following:
- Pain, pressure, fullness, discomfort, stabbing pain or squeezing in the center of the chest.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
- Radiating pain to shoulder(s), neck, back, arm(s) or jaw.
- Pounding heartbeats (palpitations) or feeling extra heartbeats.
- Upper abdominal pain.
- Nausea, vomiting or severe indigestion.
- Sweating for no apparent reason.
- Dizziness with weakness.
- Sudden extreme fatigue.
- Panic, feeling of impending doom.
- Mild chest discomfort or possibly no chest pain.
- Flu-like symptoms for two weeks to a month prior to the attack.
- Unusual fatigue, body aches or weakness.
- Don't smoke; avoid secondhand smoke.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a low-fat diet including lots of fruits, vegetables and fiber.
- Manage your cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.
- Reduce stress.
- Take aspirin daily (if advised by your doctor).
- Take your medications and be evaluated for depression if you already have coronary artery disease.
- Angioplasty (opens blocked arteries).
- Bypass grafting (attaching arteries or veins taken from other areas of your body to blocked arteries, to provide a new route for blood flow).
- Medication (clot busters, blood pressure regulators, blood thinners, and/or pain, arrhythmia and anxiety relievers).
- Cardiac rehabilitation and lifestyle changes.
Heart attacks can lead to coma, paralysis and death. Approximately half a million Americans die annually from heart attacks, half before ever reaching a hospital, according to the Women?s Heart Foundation. Quick treatment is the key to staying alive.
For more information go to HealthKey.com's Heart Health page or the Women's Heart Foundation.