Minutes Matter: Knowing the Signs of Heart Disease Can Save a Life
February 1, 2016
HANCOCK, Mich. – When a heart attack strikes, every minute matters. In fact, the first few minutes are critical in determining the short-term and long-term outcome for the patient. According to the National Institutes of Health, of the people who die from heart attacks, about half will die within an hour of their first symptoms.
At UP Health System – Portage, we want to make sure everyone in our community knows what signs to look for and understands what to do if you or someone you know experiences a serious heart problem. Quickly taking action will help ensure that the victim gets proper medical treatment before it’s too late.
Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is the leading cause of death in the United States, but what causes it? And who is most at risk?
First, heart disease refers to problems inhibiting the heart’s ability to properly function and circulate blood through the body. Many of these problems are related to atherosclerosis – the process of a substance called plaque building up in the walls of the arteries. Plaque buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. This increases the risk of a blood clot forming, which can stop blood flow and potentially cause a heart attack, stroke or even cardiac arrest.
When it comes to identifying the risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association identifies six major factors: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, being overweight and physical inactivity. Knowing – and avoiding – these top risk factors for heart disease is vital to prevention.
Heart attacks, stroke and cardiac arrest are all life-threatening, and every second is critical in regard to response time and treatment. If you or someone around you is experiencing any of the following symptoms identified by the American Heart Association, call 9-1-1 immediately to receive help and treatment as quickly as possible.
Symptoms of a heart attack:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Symptoms of a stroke:
- Face drooping. If you notice one side of your or someone else’s face drooping, or if it is numb, this is a telltale sign of a stroke. If you are uncertain, ask the person to smile.
- Arm weakness. Many stroke victims experience weakness or numbness in one arm.
- Speech difficulty. Speech may be slurred, prohibited or difficult to understand. If someone you are with is experiencing this, ask him or her to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." If he or she cannot, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Symptoms of cardiac arrest:
- Sudden loss of responsiveness. If the person does not respond when tapped on the shoulder, they are likely experiencing cardiac arrest.
- No normal breathing. The victim does not take a normal breath when you tilt the head up and check for at least five seconds.
Talk to your physician to learn more about symptoms and steps you can take today to improve your heart health. If you are in need of a primary care physician, you can search our online Physician Finder at portagehealth.org or call 906-483-1000 to explore your healthcare options.