Heart Health Month: Recognizing the Symptoms of a Heart Attack

By Betty Murray

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. February is American Heart Month and is dedicated to raising awareness about the preventable disease and controlling its risk factors.

This year, about 715,000 Americans will have a heart attack and nearly 600,000 people will die from heart disease. One in every four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease.

What is heart disease?

The term “heart disease” actually refers to several different types of heart conditions, the most common of which is coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease. Cororary heart disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries and blocks the supply of blood to the heart. It can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure and arrhythmias.

Poor nutrition and lack of exercise are at the root of heart disease. When you don’t eat healthy and don’t get enough exercise, you may develop conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes — all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, smoking and drinking too much alcohol can also lead to heart disease.

When these risk factors are controlled and lifestyle changes are made, your risk of developing heart disease and suffering a deadly heart attack dramatically decreases.

Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack

Unfortunately, you may currently display several risk factors for heart disease. In this case, it’s not only important that you talk to your doctor about managing and reducing the risk factors, but you also learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack. Knowing the warning signs and getting immediate medical attention could make the difference between life and death.

According to The American Heart Association, these are the signs that you (or a loved one) might be having a heart attack:

  • 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 with or without chest discomfort.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat.
  • Nausea (more common in women)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Back or jaw pain (more common in women)

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.

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