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 790,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 580,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
About 15% of people who have a heart attack will die from it.
Almost half of sudden cardiac deaths happen outside a hospital.
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.
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.