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Heart Attack Signs and Risks

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Eighty-five percent of heart damage occurs within the first two hours of a heart attack. Early heart attack care (EHAC) is knowing the subtle danger signs of a heart attack and acting upon them immediately, before damage occurs.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack happens when blood can't reach part of the heart due to plaque buildup or a blood clot. The heart muscle beyond the blockage is starved for oxygen and begins to die.

These artery blockages may be temporary, partial or complete and depending on the degree of damage, your heart may not beat normally and may not pump as well as before your heart attack.

What is acute coronary syndrome?

Acute coronary syndrome refers to a set of conditions caused by decreased blood flow to the heart muscle. Usually this causes angina or discomfort felt when the heart is not getting the oxygen rich blood it needs to meet your heart's demands.

Angina occurs most often because the heart arteries become narrowed due to fatty deposits or cholesterol plaque. Angina often occurs at times of exertion, during exercise or when you are under stress.

Angina usually goes away with rest or nitroglycerin. If you experience angina at rest or equivalent symptoms that do not go away, seek immediate treatment. You may be experiencing early warning signs of a heart attack.

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Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Understanding your body's condition is key in knowing the signs and symptoms of a cardiac event. Classic symptoms of a heart attack or serious event include:

  • Tightness or squeezing discomfort behind your breastbone
  • Heaviness in the chest or chest pressure
  • Discomfort or pain in the arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or upper back
  • A burning feeling under your breastbone (indigestion type)
  • Unusual shortness of breath or feeling very tired
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Associated nausea or sweatiness

If you sense any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Urgent action saves thousands of lives every year.

Major Risk Factors for Heart Disease

  • Smoking or use of tobacco products
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol, including a high LDL (bad cholesterol) low HDL (good cholesterol) or high triglyceride levels
  • Sedentary lifestyle, or get little physical activity
  • Overweight
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Early menopause (before age 40)
  • Previous heart attack
  • High levels of stress, feeling little control over your environment
  • High Blood Pressure

Learn how to prevent heart disease & your risk of a heart attack

Heart Attack Signs Video - Doctors and Zoo Creatures

Heart Attack Signs Video - Docs and Zoo CreaturesA snake, two cockroaches, an interventional cardiologist, an emergency doctor, and Jeff the Nature Guy from Zoo Montana walk into a room. What happens next at Billings Clinic?

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John R. Burg MD Cardiac Center

For an appointment or for more information: 406-238-2000 or 1-800-332-7156


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