The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attack. A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when a section of the heart muscle dies or gets damaged because of reduced blood supply.
If you have a heart attack, you are more likely to survive if you know the signs and symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away, and get to a hospital quickly. People who have had a heart attack can also reduce the risk of future heart attacks or strokes by making lifestyle changes and taking medication.
Signs and Symptoms of 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.
If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.
If you want to prevent a heart attack or stroke, the CDC recommends living a healthy lifestyle and preventing or treating your medical conditions.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
- Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person’s excess body fat.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. So, if you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.
- Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure.
Prevent or Treat Your Medical Conditions
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, there are steps you can take to lower your risk for heart disease.
- Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years. Talk with your doctor about this simple blood test.
- Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis.
- Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, closely monitor your blood sugar levels. Talk with your health care provider about treatment options.
- Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.
- Talk with your health care provider. You and your doctor can work together to prevent or treat the medical conditions that lead to heart disease. Discuss your treatment plan regularly and bring a list of questions to your appointments.