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Top Heart Stories and Heart Disease Information

The latest news on heart disease, heart medication, and heart treatments for heart patients and health nuts!

Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The five major symptoms of a heart attack are:

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
  • Shortness of breath.

Heart Attack Signs

If the blood supply to the heart muscle is cut off, a heart attack can result. Cells in the heart muscle do not receive enough oxygen and begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart. Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, increased age, physical activity, unhealthy diet, and having had a previous heart attack or family history of stroke, obesity, or diabetes can increase a person's chances of having a heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, about 785,000 Americans have an initial heart attack and another 470,000 have a recurrent heart attack each year. According to a CDC report, almost half of the cardiac deaths in 1999 occurred before emergency services and hospital treatment could be administered.

It's extremely important to recognize the signs of a heart attack and to act immediately by calling 9–1–1. A person's chances of surviving a heart attack are increased if emergency treatment is given to the victim as soon as possible.



Heart Disease Risk Factors

Some conditions as well as some lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for developing heart disease. All persons can take steps to lower their risk of heart disease and heart attack by addressing these risk factors. Control of risk factors is especially need by people who already have heart disease.

Heart Disease Conditions

Blood Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver or consumed in certain foods. It is needed by the body, and the liver makes enough for the body's needs. When there is too much cholesterol in the body, because of diet and the rate at which the cholesterol is processed, it's deposited in arteries, including those of the heart. This can lead to narrowing of the arteries, heart disease, and other complications.

Some cholesterol is often termed "good," and some often termed "bad." A higher level of high–density lipoprotein cholesterol, or HDL, is considered "good," and gives some protection against heart disease. Higher levels of low–density lipoprotein, or LDL, are considered "bad" and can lead to heart disease. A lipoprotein profile can be done to measure several different forms of cholesterol, as well as triglycerides (another kind of fat) in the blood.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is another major risk factor for heart disease. It is a condition where the pressure of the blood in the arteries is too high. There are often no symptoms to signal high blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure by changes in lifestyle or by medication can lower the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes also increases a person's risk for heart disease. With diabetes, the body either doesn't make enough insulin, can't use its own insulin as well as it should, or both. This causes sugars to build up in the blood. About three–quarters of people with diabetes die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. For people with diabetes, it is important to work with a health care provider to help in managing it and controlling other risk factors.

Heart Disease Behavior

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack. Cigarette smoking promotes atherosclerosis and increases the levels of blood clotting factors, such as fibrinogen. Also, nicotine raises blood pressure, and carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that blood can carry. Exposure to other people's smoke can increase the risk of heart disease even for nonsmokers.

Diet

Several aspects of peoples' dietary patterns have been linked to heart disease and related conditions. These include diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol, which raise blood cholesterol levels and promote atherosclerosis. High salt or sodium in the diet causes raised blood pressure levels.

Physical Inactivity

Physical inactivity is related to the development of heart disease. It also can impact other risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, a low level of HDL (good) cholesterol, and diabetes. Regular physical activity can improve risk factor levels.



Obesity

Obesity is excess body fat. It is linked to higher LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to lower HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Alcohol

Excessive alcohol use leads to an increase in blood pressure, and increases the risk for heart disease. It also increases blood levels of triglycerides which contributes to atherosclerosis.

Heart Disease Heredity

Heart disease can run in the family. Genetic factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other vascular conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of heart disease share common environments and risk factors that increase their risk. The risk for heart disease can increase even more when heredity is combined with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating a poor diet.