February isn’t just for chocolate hearts. In addition to Valentine’s Day, February also marks American Heart Month.
Although we urge you to fill your sweetheart’s mailbox with handmade cards, there may be no greater labor of love than to pay extra attention to cardiovascular health, because being as healthy as you can is a great way of expressing love to those who care about you.
One in 3 deaths in the United States is caused by heart disease, making it the No. 1 killer of both men and women, according to the American Heart Association. What often has been perceived as a condition that primarily affects men is just as serious for women.
There are many kinds of cardiovascular risks, but those that lead to heart attacks typically are the most worrisome for people. The signs and symptoms of heart attacks vary from person to person and often are misinterpreted. Women are more likely to be unaware they are experiencing a cardiac event when it occurs, according to the American Heart Association.
Dr. Navid Kazemi, MD, FACC at MountainView Hospital explains who is considered at risk for a heart attack, the symptoms people often overlook, and how to respond if you or someone you know is having a heart attack.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease is a broad term that includes a variety of ongoing conditions, such as atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the walls of arteries), heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart-valve problems and more. Each of these conditions can lead to serious dysfunction of the heart.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack is a cardiovascular event that occurs when an artery blockage prevents oxygen-rich blood from supplying the heart muscle, resulting in damage to heart tissue.
Classic heart attack symptoms include:
pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest cavity, shortness of breath, cold sweats and nausea and/ or vomiting.
These symptoms can be good indicators of a cardiac episode, but Dr. Kazemi said there are no specific rules to follow when self-identifying a heart attack. “The majority of people who present with a heart attack don’t have all of these symptoms. They may have a few of them or just one,” Kazemi said.
“What I tell my patients is, if you have an episode of chest discomfort that lasts more than one or two seconds, that catches your attention, then you need to be seen.” This usually doesn’t mean that every time you experience a mild chest pain you must rush to the emergency room, but it is important to listen to your body and trust your instincts.
“Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut rules to say when you’re having a heart attack,” Kazemi said. “It’s case by case, so I’d say that if you’re worried, then go to the hospital.”
Who is most at risk?
Men over the age of 30, post-menopausal women, diabetics, people with high blood pressure and/ or cholesterol, obese people
Immediate care for heart attack victims
MountainView Hospital started the Cardiac Alert Program to offer immediate care to heart attack patients. The goal of the program is to identify which patients require an emergency procedure to remove the artery blockage, then execute that procedure in 90 minutes or less. Dr. Navid Kazemi explains, “It is very important to complete the procedure within 90 minutes, that way we can preserve as much of the heart tissue as possible.”
If you think you may be having a heart attack, the sooner you arrive at the hospital, the less damage you are likely to suffer.