According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  a heart attack occurs every 25 seconds in America, and every minute someone will die as a result of one.  During a heart attack, every second is crucial and immediate action is needed to save the life of the heart attack victim.  Although chest pain is universally recognized as a precursor to a heart attack, there are other warning signs that are just as important.  Being able to quickly recognize these warning can give you or your loved ones those valuable seconds to call 9-1-1 and get the help that you need.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

Chest pain or tightness is the main warning sign of a heart attack and it's reason enough to call 9-1-1 and ask for help.  The victim may also describe the chest pain as intense pressure and feels as if there's someone sitting on their chest.  There are other signs, however, that may appear before chest pain and it's important to know all of them.  Other warning signs include dizziness or nausea, as well as shortness or breath.  Heart attack survivors also complained of numbness that extends to the arms, neck or back, and stomach pain or indigestion.  Don't hesistate to call 9-1-1 immediately if you start to notice any of these symptoms occur simultaneously. 

How to be Heart-Healthy

Know the risk factors

One of the first steps to being Heart-Healthy is to be aware of the risk factors associated with heart attacks.  A high cholesterol diet should be avoided because of its effect on the cardiovascular system.  Excess cholesterol in the bloodstream often accumulate near arteries and decreases the amount of space that blood can flow through.  It's important to strive for a cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL. 

Having a high blood pressure (greater than 140/90) is also a risk factor because the heart has to work harder to circulate blood as a result of the increased pressure in the arteries.  High blood pressure is often referred to as the "silent killer" because of its lack of symptoms, but don't let that be a reason to ignore it.  Over time, uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause major damage to every organ and system in your body, not just the heart.  It's important to have regular check-ups with you doctor to keep these risk-factors under control.     

Strategies to reduce the risk of a heart attack

The CDC states that approximately 785,000 Americans will have their first heart attack this year.  However, there are steps that you can take right away that can strengthen your heart and decrease the risk of a heart attack.  One of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to visit your doctor regularly.  Your doctor can show you your cholesterol level and blood pressure, as well as advice you on ways to keep these vital stats under control. 

Exercise is also effective in reducing the risk of a heart attack because it reduces your cholesterol level and improves blood circulation throughout your body.  Walking or running outside or on a treadmill for 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week can improve your health dramatically.  Lastly, be mindful of your diet.  Make a concerted effort to include fruits and vegetables in your diet, and to cut back on fats and sweets.