February is American Heart Month: Recognize Heart Attack, Stroke & Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs

     OKEMOS, MI — Women throughout America and Michigan will be “going red” in February to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease, women’s No. 1 killer.  A recent survey shows that only 13 percent of women consider cardiovascular disease their greatest health risk, but heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases claim the lives of nearly half a million women each year – about a death a minute.  That’s more lives than the next six causes of death combined.

Act in Time

     The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute have launched a new "Act in Time" campaign to increase people’s awareness of heart attack and the importance of calling 9-1-1 immediately at the onset of heart attack symptoms.

Dial 9-1-1 Fast

     Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies — every second counts. If you see or have any of the listed symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1. Not all these signs occur in every heart attack or stroke. Sometimes they go away and return. If some occur, get help fast! Today heart attack and stroke victims can benefit from new medications and treatments unavailable to patients in years past. For example, clot-busting drugs can stop some heart attacks and strokes in progress, reducing disability and saving lives. But to be effective, these drugs must be given relatively quickly after heart attack or stroke symptoms first appear. So again, don’t delay — get help right away!


     Coronary heart disease is America’s No. 1 killer. Stroke is No. 3 and a leading cause of serious disability. That’s why it’s so important to reduce your risk factors, know the warning signs, and know how to respond quickly and properly if warning signs occur.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

     Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

*    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. May occur with or without chest discomfort. 
*    Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

     If you or someone you’re with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don’t wait longer than a few minutes (no more than 5) before calling for help. Call 9-1-1… Get to a hospital right away.
     Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. The staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too.
     If you can’t access the emergency medical services (EMS), have someone drive you to the hospital right away. If you’re the one having symptoms, don’t drive yourself, unless you have absolutely no other option.
Stroke Warning Signs

The American Stroke Association says these are the warning signs of stroke:

*    Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body  
*    Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding  
*    Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes  
*    Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination  
*    Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

     If you or someone with you has one or more of these signs, don’t delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you. Also, check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. It’s very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Cardiac arrest strikes immediately and without warning. Here are the signs:

*    Sudden loss of responsiveness. No response to gentle shaking.
*    No normal breathing. The victim does not take a normal breath when you check for several seconds.
*    No signs of circulation. No movement or coughing.

     If cardiac arrest occurs, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR immediately. If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available and someone trained to use it is nearby, involve them.
     The entire month of February is American Heart Month and several different health awareness activities will be taking place around the area during the month. through the Go Red for Women movement, the American Heart Association seeks to improve the women’s heart health by providing education and tools about women and the heart disease to: the general public – to help women reduce their risk by providing information on healthful eating, exercising,quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure and blood cholesterol, and controlling diabetes: healthcare professionals – to ensure women are treated according to the American Heart Association’s guidelines; federal, state and local policy makers – to encourage them to support policies to improve women’s cardiovascular health; and corporations – to encourage them to help fight heart disease by participating in Wear Red Day and raising funds and awareness in their own employees. 
     Women are invited to join the Go Red For Women Movement by calling 1-888-MY-HEART or joining online at americanheart.org. The Go Red Women Movement is sponsored nationally by Macy’s and Pfizer.
     The 2nd Annual Go Red For Women Luncheon and a morning of health information sessions takes place on Friday, February 25th at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing.  Beginning at 10:30 a.m.,  educational workshops, health exhibits, and screenings will be available for all attendees throughout the morning.The luncheon takes place at 11:45a.m. and will feature speaker Tracy Conway. Tracy Conway, also known as “Worst Girlfriend in the World”, is an actress and comedian who literally died on stage from a sudden cardiac death in 1995. Following a taping of “Almost Live”, a Comedy Central program, she collapsed. Her dramatic resuscitation places her among only five percent of the people who survive a cardiac arrest out of a hospital. She now tours speaking to raise awareness that “heart disease does not only happen to fat, cigar-smoking, couch-potato old men”. Other speakers will be added to the morning health sessions in coming weeks covering topics such as healthy cooking, keeping your family heart-healthy  and stroke prevention.

Source: American Heart Association

About the American Heart Association:Since 1924 the American Heart Association has helped protect people of all ages and ethnicities from the ravages of heart disease and stroke. These diseases, the nation’s No.1 and No.3 killers kill more than 930,000 American lives a year. the association invested in more than $407 million in fiscal cal year 2002-03 for research, professional and public education, advocacy and community service programs so people across America can live stronger, longer lives.