Taking good care of your heart includes eating right, staying fit, and maintaining a healthy weight. But when things go wrong, taking good care of your heart also means knowing when you need help.
In North America, more than two thousand people die from cardiovascular disease every day and someone has a heart attack or stroke about every 40 seconds—those are serious numbers. When a heart attack strikes, getting quick, competent help can dramatically increase the risk of surviving the attack with minimum damage to your heart. For example, clot-busting drugs can actually stop some heart attacks and strokes but, to be most effective, they need to be given within 90 minutes after the symptoms first appear.
Knowing the signs of a heart attack or stroke can help get the help you—or someone else—might need.
Although the symptoms of a heart attack can differ from person to person, recognizing the most common signs could save a life. Those signs could include:
- Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or even heartburn or indigestion.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach (above the belly button).
- Shortness of breath, whether you’re resting or doing physical activity, may occur before or along with chest pain or discomfort.
- Other possible symptoms include breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling unusually tired (especially for a woman), nausea, dizziness or light-headedness.
FAST is key when getting help for someone suffering from a stroke, just remember:
F—Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
A—Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred or is the person unable to speak or difficult to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T—Time to call 9-1-1: If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Knowing what to do when someone suffers a heart attack or stroke can save a life, perhaps the life of someone you love!