Heart attack, stroke and warning signs
Act in Time
The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute have launched a new ďAct in TimeĒ campaign to increase peopleís 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, donít delayóget help right away!
Statistics
Coronary heart disease is Americanís No. 1 killer.  Stroke is No. 3 and a leading cause of serious disability.  Thatís why itís 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 Ė the ďmovie heart attack,Ē where no one doubts whatís happening.  But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.  Often people affected arenít sure whatís 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.
As with men, womenís most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort.  But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
If you are someone youíre with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, donít wait longer than a few minutes (no more than 5) before calling for help.  Call 9-1-1ÖGet 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 Ė up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car.  The staff is also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped.
If you canít access the emergency medical services (EMS), have someone drive you to the hospital right away.  If youíre the one having symptoms, donít 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, donít delay!  Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance can be sent for you.  As with all emergencies it is very important to seek medical help as soon as possible.
This article is sponsored by St. Maryís Hospital Cardiac Rehab Department.

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