Don’t Skip A Beat: Prepare for Heart AttacksPosted on by
Preparing for a potential heart attack now could save a life later.
A crisis often strikes without warning, whether it’s a tornado, an earthquake, or a heart attack. Although heart attacks can happen suddenly, you can take steps now to prepare in case one should ever happen to you or a loved one. February is American Heart Month, a perfect time to ask yourself, “Would I know what to do in the event of a heart attack?”
Approximately every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack. A heart attack happens when a part of the heart doesn’t get enough blood, starving it of the oxygen it needs. This reduced or blocked blood flow is usually caused by the buildup of a waxy substance called plaque in the arteries—a process that can take years to develop.
No matter how healthy you and your loved ones may be, you can take steps to prepare for the possibility of a heart attack. Preparation could help save a life.
- Know the risks. Be educated about the risks you and your loved ones face. Certain behaviors and conditions can increase your risk for a heart attack, including smoking, having uncontrolled high blood pressure, being overweight, and eating an unhealthy diet. Talk to your health care professional about what you can do to lower or manage these risks.
- Have a heart-to-heart. Engage friends, family members, and loved ones in a conversation about heart attack risks, and discuss what you can do together to prevent a heart attack. You might learn that you can help someone live a healthier life by taking them grocery shopping, driving them to medical visits, or reminding them to take their medicines. This is also an excellent time to document your own family health history. Knowing your family’s health history can tell you a lot about your own risk for heart attack because heart attack risk can often be inherited.
- Recognize the signs. Heart attacks look and feel different in women than they do in men. Both men and women may feel chest pain when having a heart attack, but women are more likely to also experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and pain in the back, neck, or jaw. About 1 in 5 heart attacks are called “silent” heart attacks, which means you’re having a heart attack but don’t know it.
- Be safe, not sorry. Many heart attacks start slowly with relatively mild pain. That keeps many people from calling 911 as soon as they should. Make an agreement with loved ones that you will call 911 as soon as anyone experiences any of the signs of a heart attack. Don’t hesitate: acting fast can save a life.
- Write down important information. Keep a record of what medicines your loved ones are taking, what medicines they’re allergic to, and who they would want to have contacted in case of an emergency. If your loved one is hospitalized for a heart attack, you’ll have important information at your fingertips.
- Focus on prevention. It pays to be prepared in case a heart attack happens, but the best case scenario is to never experience a heart attack at all. You can help prevent heart attack from happening by eating healthfully, getting enough physical activity, not smoking, staying at a healthy weight, and managing other health conditions like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes. Reach out to your loved ones and commit to making these healthy changes together.
Staying heart-healthy is a lifestyle. Support from friends and loved ones can help empower you to be your healthiest self. This American Heart Month, show your support and share tips about how you encourage your loved ones to be heart-healthy by using the hashtag #HeartToHeart on Twitter and Facebook. You can find other ways to participate in American Heart Month by visiting the Million Hearts website.
- Page last reviewed:February 6, 2017
- Page last updated:February 6, 2017
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