A heart attack can happen at any time to anyone. Oftentimes the underlying problems leading up to a heart attack go unnoticed and undiagnosed for years before the actual event occurs. Some factors leading up to an attack can be prevented while others cannot. Many people are surprised when they have an attack and do not realize how their lifestyle choices affected their probability of having one. This summary discusses what a heart attack is, its signs and symptoms, prevention strategies, and how to provide first aid care.
According to the The Free Dictionary “A heart attack is the death of, or damage to, part of the heart muscle because the supply of blood to the heart muscle is severely reduced or stopped.” The conditions within the body leading up to a heart attack can take years to progress to a point severe enough to cause an attack, and usually do not present any warning signs until the tragedy occurs. A heart attack is the result of increasing blockage to the coronary arteries, which supply blood and oxygen to the heart. This is a gradual process that leads to coronary artery disease, which in turn can cause a heart attack once the blockage has become severe enough. A heart attack is often the first sign of coronary artery disease, and is the most common form of heart disease. A heart attack is the number one cause of death in the United States. Of the more than 1.5 million Americans who suffer through a heart attack, half a million of them do not survive. (Heart Attack, thefreedictionary.com). According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention “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.” Deaths tend to vary by ethnicity. The chart below shows the percentage of deaths due to heart disease by ethnicity.
Race of Ethnic Group % of Deaths
African Americans 24.5
American Indians or Alaska Natives 18.0
Asians or Pacific Islanders 23.2
White Americans have the highest percentages of death due to heart disease with African Americans coming in at a close second. (Heart Disease Facts, cdc.gov)
The signs and symptoms of a heart attack can vary based on sex, age, and medical condition. Women, the elderly, and people with diabetes tend to have symptoms that are more subtle and unusual. According to MedlinePlus the following signs and symptoms are indicative for an adult experiencing a heart attack.
• Changes in mental status, particularly in the elderly
• Chest pain that feels like pressure, squeezing, or fullness
o The pain is usually in the center of the chest
o It may also be felt in the jaw, shoulder, arms, back, and stomach
o It last for more than a few minutes, or it may come and go
• Cold sweat
• Nausea (more common in women)
• Numbness, aching, or tingling in the arm (usually the left arm)
• Shortness of breath
• Weakness or fatigue,...