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About Heart Attack

Cardiovascular (car-dee-o-vas-cue-lar) disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. The Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care says around 1.2 million Americans suffer a heart attack every year and nearly one-third of those people die as a result. 

When a blood vessel that supplies the heart muscle with blood and oxygen is blocked, a heart attack occurs. The heart muscle is no longer receiving blood and oxygen and will start to die if blood flow is not restored. Narrowing of the vessel occurs when plaque builds up. This plaque can be a mix of fat and cholesterol. This process is referred to as atherosclerosis. 

However, many people ignore the warning signs of a heart attack. “Time is muscle” and the longer you wait to seek medical care, the more heart muscle dies. 

The long term-effects of a heart attack can be life changing and you must seek medical attention right away. Time is critical and knowing the early warning signs can prevent a heart attack. Early Heart Attack Care, a learning tool developed by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care, brings focus to the need for fast medical care. It describes the early warning signs that can occur days or weeks before a heart attack. Learn more about Early Heart Attack Care here

A heart attack may start with classic chest pressure or other subtle symptoms. Everyone should know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and the importance of getting immediate medical attention. Take the time to learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Don’t drive to the emergency room. When emergency medical services are involved, your care can begin more quickly.

If you or someone else is having the signs or symptoms of heart attack, call 9-1-1 without delay. Do not drive to the hospital. The person having a heart attack may suffer cardiac arrest, pass out, or have other complications on the way to the hospital. 

Critical time-sensitive treatments can be started more quickly when using Emergency Medical Services (EMS). EMS professionals include emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who can administer oxygen, perform CPR, and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if needed. Paramedics can perform more advanced treatments and administer emergency medications. EMS brings many of the capabilities of the emergency room to you, no matter where you happen to be. The advantages of using EMS include earlier diagnosis and treatment, safe and expedient transport to the best hospital (one that is better equipped to treat heart attacks), and notifying the hospital ahead of time so they are ready for the patient’s arrival.

Last updated 8/2013