Did you Know Heart Attacks Have Beginnings?

Did you know that more than 800,000 people die in the US every year from a heart attack? On average, 50 percent of these patients displayed, but ignored, the warning signs.

Heart attacks, like other diseases, have early signs and symptoms. However, if recognized in time, these “beginnings” can even be treated before the heart is damaged.

How can you prevent a heart attack?

Even if you don’t think you’re personally at risk, it’s important for everyone to learn how to prevent a heart attack and help others. This includes:

  • Understanding the risk factors and immediately seeing a doctor for early diagnosis.
  • Learning the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. These signs occur differently in men and women.
  • Be alert for a heart attack in yourself or someone in your vicinity. Becoming an active bystander could save a life!
  • When in doubt, call 9-1-1. First responders have the medical technology to quickly save a life.
  • Take the Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC) Pledge to save a life.

What is EHAC?

Early Heart Attack Care (or EHAC) is knowing the subtle danger signs of a heart attack and acting upon them immediately - before heart damage occurs. That’s because 85 percent of heart damage occurs within the first two hours of a heart attack. EHAC not only saves lives, it protects the quality of life.

Learn the early signs & symptoms

Someone may experience any or all of these symptoms. When they start, they can be mild or come and go. Over time, the symptoms and pain increase until the victim collapses.

  • Chest pressure, squeezing, aching, or burning
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain that travels down one or both arms
  • Back pain
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Jaw pain
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety

However, heart attack symptoms look different in men and women. And it's crucial to stay alert because women are less likely to seek immediate medical care and are more likely to die.

Men v. Women. What is the difference?

  • Men normally feel pain and numbness in the left arm or side of chest, but in women, these symptoms may appear on the right side.
  • Women may feel completely exhausted, drained, dizzy or nauseous.
  • Women may feel upper back pain that travels up into their jaw.
  • Women may think their stomach pain is the flu, heartburn or an ulcer.

Atypical signs and symptoms

And for both men and women, there are atypical presentations of heart attack symptoms. For example, he or she may not complain about pain or pressure in the chest. Be alert for the following:

  • A sharp or “knife-like” pain that occurs with coughing or breathing.
  • Pain that spreads above the jawbone or into the lower body.
  • Difficult or labored breathing.

Know your risk factors

Below is a list of general risk factors. However, it’s important to discuss your individual risk for a heart attack with your doctor.

  • Chest pain, pressure, burning, aching or tightness - it may come and go
  • A family history of cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight or obese
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Using tobacco products
  • Metabolic disease, diabetes or other illnesses
  • For women it can also include birth control pills, a history of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or having a low birth weight baby