Every year, more than 1.5 million people have a heart attack or stroke in the United States. That’s about the size of the urban population of Cincinnati. Heart disease and stroke affect all races and ethnicities, and both are in the top five leading causes of death for all Americans.
However, by learning the signs and symptoms of stroke and heart attack you could save yourself or someone you love from becoming another statistic. According to the CDC, patients who arrive in the emergency room within three hours of their first stroke symptoms often have less disability three months after a stroke than those who received delayed care. Similarly, your chances of survival from a heart attack are greater when emergency treatment begins quickly.
To prevent or lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke, talk to your doctor for information on testing, treatment and lifestyle changes that may protect you from these deadly diseases.
“You can greatly decrease your risk for heart attack and stroke by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, choosing a healthy diet and not smoking,” said Stephen Lewis MD, a cardiologist with the TriHealth Heart Institute. “But even with the reduced risk, early detection is critical so it’s important to know the signs and to immediately seek medical attention if you or a loved one experience them.”
A heart attack occurs when part of the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough blood flow. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater a person’s risk is to damage to the heart muscle. The main cause of heart attacks is coronary artery disease — a buildup of plaque in the wall of the arteries.
The frightening thing about heart attacks is that 1 in 5 attacks is silent, so a person may not be aware of the damage done. However, a heart attack may also cause sudden symptoms, giving warning signs leading up to a cardiovascular event.
Signs of heart attack
What are the common heart attack warning signs? Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest, lasting a few minutes or intermittently leaving and returning. This discomfort has been described as an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Women having a heart attack may or may not experience chest pressure.
People having a heart attack may also experience discomfort in other areas of the upper body, often in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Other warning signs may include shortness of breath (with or without the chest discomfort), breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
If you or someone around you experiences these intense symptoms, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately. The outcome is more likely to be positive if a heart attack is treated quickly.
For more information on the treatment and prevention of heart disease, visit the TriHealth Heart Institute.
According to the American Stroke Association, a stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and vital nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot or bursts or ruptures. Part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, causing brain cells to die.
Sadly, stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability, and it’s also the leading cause of preventable long-term disability. That means that early action could be vital for you or someone you love.
Signs of stroke
What are the signs of a stroke? The most common symptoms are a drooping face, arm weakness and speech difficulty, but there are other associated symptoms. These may include sudden numbness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body and/or sudden confusion — a person may have trouble speaking or understanding speech.
In addition, a person suffering from a stroke may have trouble seeing in one or both eyes and have trouble walking, getting dizzy or losing their balance and coordination. Sometimes a severe headache, with no known cause may accompany a stroke.
If you or a person around you shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 and go to a hospital immediately.
An easy way to remember stroke symptoms is to remember to “BE FAST,” which stands for:
- Balance trouble
- Eyes (loss of vision/double vision)
- Face drooping/numbing
- Arm weakness/numbing
- Speech difficulty/slurring
- Time to call 911 if a person shows any of these symptoms.
For more information on stroke treatment and care, visit the TriHealth Neuroscience Institute.