Heart Attack: Who’s at Risk

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. CHD is caused by a narrowing of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart, and often results in a Heart Attack.

Each year, about 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack. About 460,000 of those heart attacks are fatal. About half of those deaths occur within 1 hour of the start of symptoms and before the person reaches the hospital.

Fortunately, everyone can take steps to protect their heart-and their life or that of someone else. The key is seeking medical care as soon as possible.

This Web page tells you about Heart Attack and the steps you can take to increase your chances of survival. You’ll learn why a fast response to the signs of a heart attack is crucial to save lives and limit heart damage.

Certain factors make it more likely that you will develop CAD and have a Heart Attack. These are called risk factors. Risk factors you cannot change include:

  • Your age       o Men: over age 45       o Women: over age 55  
  • Having a family history of early heart disease       o Heart disease diagnosed in father or brother before age 55       o Heart disease diagnosed in mother or sister before age 65  
  • Having a personal history of CAD       o Angina       o A previous heart attack       o A surgical procedure (Angioplasty, Heart bypass) to increase blood flow to your heart.

Risk factors that you can change include:

  • Smoking or daily exposure to second-hand smoke (at home or at work)  
  • High blood pressure  
  • High blood cholesterol  
  • Obesity;  Overweight (by 20 or more pounds)  
  • Being physically inactive; Sedentary lifestyle  
  • Diabetes (high blood sugar) .  
  • Past heart attack or known coronary artery disease  
  • Family history  
  • Elevated lipids (over 240 mg/dL. or HDL less than 35 mg/dL)  
  • Abnormal heartbeat  
  • Birth control pills (in combination with smoking)  
  •   Post-menopausal (and without estrogen replacement therapy)

If you suspect a heart attack, call 9-1-1
  * Say “I am having a heart attack”.
  * Chew an uncoated aspirin right away as this can reduce damage to the heart muscle.
  * Go to the nearest medical facility with 24-hour emergency cardiac care. Don’t drive yourself. If you’re not sure that the pain you are experiencing is serious, it is best to go to the emergency room to find out.
  * Get treatment quickly. Clot buster medicine and coronary angioplasty work best if provided after the first signs of distress. so don’t wait. Get to the emergency room without delay. Every Minute Counts!

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: July 4, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.