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Heart Attacks - Knowing Enough about your Heart and Health To help Save Your Life
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22nd Jun, 2009 | Source : Newsweek Showcase Archives

Your heart is pounding, you are gasping for air – How can you tell if its a potentially deadly heart attack or just a panic attack? Answer: Only trained medical experts can determine the difference.

You think you might be having a heart attack. Should you call your doctor or drive to the hospital? Answer: Neither, Seconds count, call 911.

Coronary heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Each year, approximately 1.2 million Americans suffer a heart attack and nearly one-third will die– many before they reach the hospital. However, patients who recognize the symptoms and get to a hospital quickly have a much better chance of survival. What happens once a patient arrives at the hospital is paramount. Many hospitals are now focusing on improving the care of chest pain patients, and the good news is consumers will benefit.

At the first sign of a heart attack (see symptoms below), the most important step you can take is to call 911. You can also find out about the heart care program of your local hospitals before you ever need to make that call. There has been a recent trend among hospitals to seek an accreditation for being a “Chest Pain Center” or an “Acute Heart Failure Center”. Accreditation benefits heart patients by assuring a certain level of care is met. Improved medical protocols reduce the time it takes for a patient experiencing symptoms to see a physician and receive treatment, significantly increasing survival.

Over the last six years, 500 hospitals have earned the accreditation. In fact, approximately one third of the top 100 U.S. hospitals setting the nation’s benchmarks for cardiovascular care, have earned the accreditation, versus only about 9 percent average across all others.

When someone is having signs of a possible heart attack, it’s reassuring to have a plan in place. By Calling 911 immediately and understanding the type of heart care available in your area, the person experiencing heart attack symptoms will have the best possible chance of survival.

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack in Men

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. Occurring with or before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness. Treatments are most effective when they occur in the early stages of chest pain.

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack in Women

  • Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest, spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw pain
  • Chest discomfort with light-headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath
  • Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort
  • Lower chest discomfort
  • Back Pain
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

For more information on Chest Pain Centers and a list of Accredited Hospitals in the United States, please visit



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