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Alternative Names Return to topFirst aid - heart attack; First aid - cardiopulmonary arrest; First aid - cardiac arrest
Definition Return to top
A heart attack is a medical emergency.
The average person waits 3 hours before seeking help for symptoms of a heart attack. Many heart attack victims die before they reach a hospital. The sooner someone gets to the emergency room, the better the chance of survival. Prompt medical treatment also reduces the amount of damage done to the heart following an attack.
Considerations Return to top
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America today.
Causes Return to top
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that carries oxygen to the heart is blocked. The heart muscle becomes starved for oxygen and begins to die. See heart attack for more specific causes.
Symptoms Return to top
Heart attacks can cause a wide range of symptoms, from mild to intense. Women, the elderly, and people with diabetes are more likely to have subtle or atypical symptoms.
Symptoms in adults may include:
Women are more likely than men to have symptoms of nausea, vomiting, back or jaw pain, and shortness of breath with chest pain.
Babies and children may appear limp and unresponsive and may have bluish-colored skin.
First Aid Return to top
DO NOT Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Prevention Return to top
Adults should take steps to control heart disease risk factors whenever possible. If you smoke, quit. Smoking more than doubles the chance of developing heart disease. Keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes in good control and follow with your doctor's orders.
Lose weight if obese or overweight. Get regular exercise to improve heart health. (Talk to your doctor before starting any new fitness program.)
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. One drink a day is associated with reducing the rate of heart attacks, but two or more drinks a day can damage the heart and cause other medical problems.Update Date: 2/19/2008 Updated by: John E. Duldner, Jr., MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Director of Research, Department of Emergency Medicine, Akron General Medical Center and Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.