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Know the Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

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About Heart Attack

  • A heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart is cut off. Cells in the heart muscle that do not receive enough oxygen-carrying blood begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.
  • Every year about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 190,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.1
  • About 15% of people who have a heart attack will die from it.1
  • Almost half of sudden cardiac deaths happen outside a hospital.2
  • Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, having had a previous heart attack or stroke, or having diabetes can increase your chance of developing heart disease and having a heart attack.
  • It is important to recognize the signs of a heart attack and to act immediately by calling 911. A person's chance of surviving a heart attack increases if emergency treatment is administered as soon as possible.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.


CDC's Public Health Efforts

Million Hearts
Million Hearts™ is a national, public-private initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Co-led by CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the initiative brings together communities, health care professionals, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private-sector partners to improve care and empower Americans to make heart-healthy choices.

CDC's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program
Since 1998, CDC has funded state health departments' efforts to reduce the number of people with heart disease and stroke. Health departments in 41 states and the District of Columbia currently receive funding. The program stresses policy and education to promote heart-healthy and stroke-free living and working conditions.

For More Information

For more information on heart disease visit our Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/ and the Web sites of the following CDC partners:


References

  1. Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;125(1):e2–220.
  2. Zheng ZJ, Croft JB, Giles WH, Ayala CI, Greenlund KJ, Keenan NL, Neff L, Wattigney WA, Mensah GA. State Specific Mortality from Sudden Cardiac Death: United States, 1999. MMWR 2002;51(6):123–126.

 
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