Heart Attacks

  • What is a heart attack?  Your heart muscle needs oxygen to survive. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood flow can slowly become narrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque. This slow process is known as atherosclerosis. When a plaque in a heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque. This blood clot can block the blood flow through the heart muscle. When the heart muscle is starved for oxygen and nutrients, it is called ischemia. When damage or death of part of the heart muscle occurs as a result of ischemia, it is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI). About every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a myocardial infarction (heart attack).   (Mayo Clinic Staff)

  • Common heart attack signs and symptoms include:

    • Lack of pulse
    • Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
    • Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
    • Shortness of breath, or no breathing
    • Cold sweat
    • Fatigue
    • Lightheadedness, sudden dizziness
    • Sudden collapse, or loss of consciousness
    • Heart attack symptoms vary  
      (Mayo Clinic Staff)

  • Heart disease in Women:  Understand unique symptoms and risk factors.

    Although heart disease may often be thought of as a problem for men, heart disease is the most common cause of death for both women and men in the United States. One challenge is that some heart disease symptoms in women may be different from those in men. Fortunately, women can take steps to understand their unique symptoms of heart disease and to begin to reduce their risk of heart disease.

    All women face the threat of heart disease. But becoming aware of symptoms and risks unique to women, as well as eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising, can help protect you.

    Heart attack symptoms for women:   The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it is not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pain. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

    • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
    • Shortness of breath
    • Pain in one or both arms
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Sweating
    • Lightheadedness or dizziness
    • Unusual fatigue

    These symptoms can be more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. Women may describe chest pain as pressure or a tightness. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or coronary microvascular disease.

  • Not all people who have heart attacks have the same symptoms or have the same severity of symptoms. Some people have mild pain; others have more severe pain. Some people have no symptoms, while for others, the first sign may be sudden cardiac arrest. However, the more signs and symptoms you have, the greater the likelihood you're having a heart attack.

    Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but many people have warning signs and symptoms hours, days or weeks in advance. The earliest warning may be recurrent chest pain (angina) that's triggered by exertion and relieved by rest. Angina is caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart. 

    A heart attack differs from a condition in which your heart suddenly stops (sudden cardiac arrest, which occurs when an electrical disturbance disrupts your heart's pumping action and causes blood to stop flowing to the rest of your body). A heart attack can cause cardiac arrest, but it's not the only cause.   (Mayo Clinic Staff)
    http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-attack/basics/symptoms/con-20019520

Statistics
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. 

    Every three days,
    more Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest than the number who died in the 9-11 attacks. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.  

    About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.

    Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.     (Heart Disease Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 10, 2015)

  • 80% of all cardiac arrests occur at home. 
    Nearly half of all cardiac arrest events are witnessed.
    A heart attack victim is 3 times more likely to survive when a bystander starts CPR immediately. 
    (Source:  Spokane Valley Fire Department)

  • Cardiac arrest claims about 350,000 U.S. lives a year.

    About half of middle-age patients had experienced warning signs, mostly chest pain or shortness of breath during the month before they suffered a cardiac arrest.

    Your risk of sudden cardiac arrest is increased if you have experienced previous heart attacks, coronary heart disease, and certain inherited disorders affecting heartbeat.

    For 90% of people, by the time the 911 call is made, it’s too late.
  Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating without warning which in turn deprives the body of oxygenated blood.  A person in cardiac arrest usually dies within minutes, if he or she does not receive immediate treatment with CPR and a defibrillator.  (Source: Spokane Valley Hospital Magazine Winter 2012; “Ignoring the warning signs," Lauran Neergaard, The Spokesman-Review," 12-29-15)

What You Can Do
  • Do not ignore the signs!  Many people may ignore potentially life-saving warning signs hours, days, and even a few weeks before they collapse. Chest pain is most common in men and shortness of breath in women. Other symptoms include fainting and heart palpitations.  (Source: Spokane Valley Hospital Magazine Winter 2012; “Ignoring the warning signs," Lauran Neergaard, The Spokesman-Review," 12-29-15)

  • CPR is hands-only and has never been easier!  Enroll in a FREE CPR Class.
    Spokane Valley Fire Department
    2411 N. Pioneer Lane
    Spokane Valley, WA
    To register for a class, call (509) 928-1700

  • Learn the Mayo Clinic's updated guidelines for giving CPR by visiting: 
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-cpr/FA00061 

  • Learn Sarver Heart Center’s Continuous Chest Compression CPR
    More Information: Katie Maass, (520) 626-4083, kmaass@shc.arizona.edu

    Watch this short video.  Sarver Heart Center’s newest video makes it easy to learn Continuous Chest Compression CPR. Every three days, more Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest than the number who died in the 9-11 attacks. You can lessen this recurring loss by learning this hands-only CPR method that doubles a person’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest.  Watch physician researchers Gordon A. Ewy, MD, and Karl Kern, MD, demonstrate the easy, life-saving method that they developed at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.     http://ahsc.arizona.edu/node/730

  • When to see a doctor

    Act immediately.
    Some people wait too long, because they don't recognize the important signs and symptoms.

    Take these steps:

    • Call for emergency medical help - if you suspect you're having a heart attack.  Don't hesitate. Immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital.
    • Drive yourself only if there are no other options. Because your condition can worsen, driving yourself puts you and others at risk.
    • Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed to you by a doctor. Take it as instructed while awaiting emergency help.
    • Take aspirin, if recommended. Taking aspirin during a heart attack could reduce heart damage by helping to keep your blood from clotting.  Aspirin can interact with other medications, however, so don't take an aspirin unless your doctor or emergency medical personnel recommend it. Don't delay calling 911 to take an aspirin. Call for emergency help first.   (Mayo Clinic Staff)

  • What to do if you see someone having a heart attack.  If you encounter someone who is unconscious,

    • First, call for emergency medical help.
    • Then, begin CPR to keep blood flowing. Push hard and fast on the person's chest — about 100 compressions a minute. It's not necessary to check the person's airway or deliver rescue breaths unless you've been trained in CPR.   (Mayo Clinic Staff)

Local Organizations