Heart Attack: Warning Signs and Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men, women and most racial and ethnic groups in the United States,” says American Center of Disease Control’s (or CDC). It takes one victim every 37 seconds in the United States. Cardiovascular disease claims the lives of almost 17 million people per year around the world, of which about 500,000 are fatal heart attack victims in the United States.

1. Facts About Heart Attacks

A heart attack is just one type of cardiovascular disease swinging Death’s scythe, even beating cancer in the United States. It has consistently been one of the biggest health issues for man since ancient times. Below are some staggering statistics concerning this disease in our age:

  • Every year 1.5 million people in the United States suffer a heart attack. About 500,000 perish within an hour before they can receive proper medical care.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that almost half of all heart attacks in the world are due to high blood pressure.
  • A heart attack case occurs at least once every 20 seconds. One person dies from a heart attack every minute.
  • Women under 50 are twice as likely to suffer from heart attacks than men in the same age range.
  • Heart attack survival rates have improved each decade since the 1970s.
  • In 2010, heart attacks are estimated to have cost the United States $316 trillion dollars in medical service, medication, and lost productivity.

2. What Causes a Heart Attack?

Cardiovascular diseases involve the tissues and arteries of the heart muscle. Heart attacks specifically result when the arteries are clogged or otherwise prevented from delivering blood and oxygen to tissues in the heart. This can be due to excessive fat or cholesterol in the arteries, or via arterial damage.

Damage cause blot clots to form, and a large enough blood clot can restrict blood flow. Spasms that rupture a coronary artery may also shut down blood flow, as well as frequent tobacco and narcotic usage.

With the heart receiving little oxygen and blood, the cells of the heart muscle die off and eventually, the organ gives up. This is what leads to a heart attack.

3. People at Risk

Lifestyle plays a huge role in determining your risk for heart attack. If you or someone you know has this lifestyle habits, it may be wise to change things up and adopt a more healthy approach:

  • Our heart needs to pump blood through our entire system. When we slack off and neglect our physical health, our heart muscle gets weaker as we age and leaves us at a higher risk for heart disease.
  • Eating greasy and fattening foods can clog our arteries to the point where blood stops flowing to the heart. This is the primary contributor to a heart attack.
  • Unfortunately, as we get older, our bodies simply become more susceptible to malady. Men over 45 and women over 55 are more likely to suffer from a heart attack.
  • From high blood pressure can cause damage or worse, atherosclerosis, a condition where plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. The plaque hardens over time and can inhibit blood flow to the cardiovascular muscle.
  • This disease is a combination of heart killers: high blood pressure, high levels of fat and “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins, or LDL), and (typically) physical inactivity.
  • Diabetics suffer from a lack of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Because of this, their blood sugar levels shoot up, putting them at higher risk of a heart attack.
  • Causing damage to the coronary arteries and increasing the likelihood of a heart attack.
  • Where the heart muscle suddenly becomes weak and the left ventricle changes shape, affecting its ability to pump blood. This is possibly due to a large release of adrenaline, which increases blood pressure and heart rate and is believed to cause constriction of blood vessels.
  • Tobacco smoke is known to impair the blood vessels by increasing the risk of atherosclerosis, which builds up plaque in the arteries. Smoking, whether directly or via second-hand, increases every inhaler’s risk of heart disease by 2-3 times.

4. Symptoms of Heart Attack

Heart attacks are not as dramatic as the movies make them appear. Rather they occur slowly, and you may not realize what’s going on at first. The symptoms may be severe, or very mild. Some of the common ones are:

  • feeling pressure, pain or a squeezing sensation in the chest, which may radiate outward to the arms or wrists
  • pain around the neck, jaw, and upper back areas
  • heaviness in the upper abdomen
  • feeling generally ill
  • severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • cold sweat
  • dizziness, feeling light-headed
  • shortness of breath
  • sudden fatigue
  • nausea
  • indigestion, heartburn

Women may experience symptoms differently than men. Many women report feeling that they are coming down with flu and generally suffer more from nauseousness.

5. What to Do During a Heart Attack

If you think you or someone else is experiencing a heart attack, call an emergency service immediately to get proper medical attention. The survival rate is over 90 percent for those who get care as soon as possible. But it shouldn’t stop there.

If you have had a heart attack previously, you can prevent another episode by monitoring your health and making better decisions regarding your diet, exercise habits, and stress levels. You can always do something to minimize your risk of a heart attack.

Have you or a loved one suffered from a heart attack recently? Did you change your lifestyle afterward to prevent another attack?