What is a Heart Attack?

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A heart attack occurs when the travel of oxygen rich blood through the heart’s arteries is obstructed. If this blood flow is not restored quickly, the heart muscle becomes damaged and can no longer pump blood throughout your body as well. Heart attacks are the leading causes of death in both men and women and are most commonly caused by coronary heart disease, in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries.

When plaque builds up in the arteries, this is called atherosclerosis, and can be diagnosed years before a heart attack occurs. The average time between the first symptoms of a heart attack and unconsciousness is 8 hours. This means that recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack is incredibly important in saving your life, as well as the lives of others. Symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort: Can be anything from pressure or tightness to fullness or squeezing. Pain in the center or left side of the chest can also be common. The pain usually lasts for a few minutes then begins to subside, only to return a few minutes later.  It can become progressively more severe.  More than 15 minutes of pain could indicate you are experiencing heart muscle damage.
  • Torso and head discomfort: Pain in the neck, jaw, back or upper stomach can also occur. Also, pain or numbness in your arms are very common symptoms of an impending heart attack.
  • Shortness of breath/nausea: vomiting, light headedness or breaking out in a sweat. All are symptoms a heart attack that occur with the pain described above.

If you see someone having a heart attack, or think you may be having one yourself, call 911. Many heart attacks can be prevented by early recognition. Learn the symptoms, and be ready.  The faster you get to medical attention, the better your chances of survival with a strong, healthy heart.

The best way to prevent a heart attack is to have regular check-ups with your doctor, and to follow up on any heart-related irregularities with a cardiologist. Your doctor can advise you on how best to keep your heart healthy. Contact us today if you would like to speak with a cardiologist about your heart health.

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