While hospitalization and deaths from heart disease are decreasing, it still remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Among the most serious heart diseases is heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction. Because of the sudden onset and damage that occurs quickly from a heart attack, it is important to act fast if you or a loved one suffers a heart attack.
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked due to a clogged artery. This blockage prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If not reopened quickly, the section of the heart not receiving blood will begin to die.
Learn more about heart attacks with these 10 Surprising Facts About Heart Attacks.
10 Surprising Facts About Heart Attacks
1. Every 20 seconds a heart attack occurs and a heart attack fatality occurs about every minute.
2. Almost 14 million Americans have a history of heart attack or angina.
Like a heart attack, angina occurs when the vessels that supply blood to the heart narrow and prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart. The main differences between heart attack and angina are:
- Pain associated with angina is usually not as severe as pain associated with a heart attack.
- The pain associated with angina usually goes away in about 10 minutes.
- Angina usually subsides after taking a medicine, such as nitroglycerin.
- Angina often occurs during exercise, but goes away when resting.
Pain associated with angina can often feel like a heart attack, so it is recommended that patients seek medical help immediately if they have any doubts about what is causing their discomfort.
3. Heart attacks do not always have recognizable symptoms.
In fact, a heart attack can happen suddenly without a person knowing it. This is referred to as a silent heart attack and is most common in diabetic patients and those over the age of 75. These individuals should visit their family physician and/or cardiologist on a regular basis to continually monitor their health.
4. Men and women do not always experience the same heart attack symptoms.
Men typically experience the following heart attack symptoms:
- Moderate to severe chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Radiating pain in the arms and chest
Woman may experience different heart attack symptoms, including:
- Some women do not experience chest pain and will instead feel pain in the back, arm, neck, shoulder and/or throat.
- Shortness of breath
Most often, symptoms of a heart attack begin slowly and occur for hours, days or even weeks before the actual heart attack occurs. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as you notice symptoms of a heart attack. The quicker it is treated, the better an outcome you can expect.
5. Women under the age of 50 are twice as likely to die of a heart attack than men of the same age, according to the Women’s Heart Foundation (often because of ignoring early warnings).
6. More than one million people in the United States suffer from a heart attack each year.
7. Costs related to heart attack exceed 60 billion dollars per year, which includes charges for hospitalization, doctors and prescription drugs.
8. At the first sign of chest discomfort, chewing an uncoated aspirin can help reduce the amount of damage to the heart muscles during a heart attack.
9. Around half of heart attack deaths occur within one hour of the heart attack – outside a hospital.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, minutes matter. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.
10. Heart attacks can occur in young people.
While over 80 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are at least 65 years old, heart attacks can also happen much earlier in life. No matter what your age, do not neglect the warning signs of heart attack.