Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
Each year, ≈1.1 million Americans experience a heart attack; ≈460 000 of them are fatal. Of those who die, almost half do so suddenly, before they can get to a hospital. Although a heart attack is a frightening event, if you learn the signs of a heart attack and what steps to take, you can save a life—perhaps even your own.
Who Is At Risk
Many people think that heart attacks are a “man’s problem,” yet heart disease is actually the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. In men, the risk for heart attack increases significantly after the age of 45. In women, heart attacks are more likely to occur in the years after menopause (usually, after the age of 50). However, younger men and women can also have heart attacks.
Besides age, factors that increase the risk for heart attack are:
A previous heart attack or procedure to open up the coronary arteries
Family history of early heart disease:
–Father or brother diagnosed before age 55
–Mother or sister diagnosed before age 65
High blood cholesterol
High blood pressure
If you have one or more of these factors, see your health care provider to find out how to reduce your risk of having a heart attack.
During a heart attack, a clot in the heart’s artery blocks the flow of blood to the heart. Heart muscle begins to die. This is technically called a “myocardial infarction,” meaning “death of heart muscle.” The more time that passes without treatment, the greater the damage. The part of the heart that dies during a heart attack cannot grow back or be repaired.
Fortunately, clot-busting drugs and other artery-opening treatments, such as angioplasty, can stop a heart attack in …