Heart Attacks

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., causing 32.8% of all deaths in 2008, according to the American Heart Association. Each year 1.2 million people have a heart attack. Of these, 785,000 are the person’s first coronary heart attack.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscles becomes interrupted, causing the heart to die from lack of oxygen. Plaque builds up in the coronary arteries and blocks the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart. If the heart goes into cardiac arrest (stops pumping) then it only takes 4 to 6 minutes for brain death.

The key to surviving a heart attack is to seek medical attention immediately. About 47% of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside of a hospital. When symptoms present, such as crushing pressure on the chest, pain in the left arm and upper jaw, and extreme nausea, call 911 immediately. Chew an Aspirin as you wait, as this will help it absorb into your blood stream faster. Women should be especially careful, as they are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed mid-heart attack and sent home from the hospital.

Advances in medical science have made heart attack survival rates higher than ever, but this has led to an increase in heart failure later in life. Basically, medicine has bought people some more time. Among women, 38% die within a year after having a heart attack. The rate is 25% for men. About 22% of men and 46% of women will develop heart failure within six years of having a heart attack. Fewer than half of patients diagnosed with heart failure survive 5 years. Only 25% survive 10 years.

The risk factors for heart disease are many, ranging from obesity, to high cholesterol, to smoking and lack of exercise. One study found that women who slept five hours or less a night were 39% more likely to develop heart disease than women who got at least eight hours. Mornings are when most people suffer heart attacks. Genetics also play a large role. A person with both a first-degree relative and a second-degree relative who suffer from heart disease before the age of 60 is nearly 10 times more likely to suffer from heart disease early in life.

Additional Resources

CDC Heart Disease Facts: http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

Random Facts Heart Disease: http://facts.randomhistory.com/heart-disease-facts.html

The New York Times Surviving a Heart Attack, Succumbing to Heart Failure: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/health/healthguide/esn-heart-failure-ess.html

The Wall Street Journal If You’re Stricken: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304432704577347723157872672.html

American Heart Association Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2012: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/125/1/e2.full.pdf

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