Affinity Health Plan

  • Know the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

    March 03, 2015

    Heart disease claims one in every four lives in America each year.  In numbers that is 610,000 people.  It has cut across race and gender to become this country's leading cause of death among men and women. It's responsible for 25.1 percent of the deaths among Whites and 24.5 percent among African Americans. For Asians and Pacific Islanders it claims 23.2 percent, and for Hispanics it's 20.8 percent. For American Indians and Alaska Natives it accounts for 18 percent of the deaths, writes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC). 

    Heart diseaseHaving a poor diet, drinking alcohol to excess, smoking, being overweight or obese, physical inactivity and even excessive stress can put people at risk for this disease. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and having a family history of heart disease are additional risk factors. About half or 49 percent of all Americans have at least one or more risk.

    A CDC study points out that many people don't know what to look out for when a person is having a heart attack since nearly 47 percent of them happen outside of the hospital. Call 9-1-1 immediately if a person is having what appears to be a heart attack. A person's chances of surviving a heart attack are increased if emergency treatment is given as quickly as possible.

    Some of the common symptoms are pain or discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, and cold sweats. Other warning signs include upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach.

    "A woman having a heart attack can be different than a man having a heart attack," said Patricia Harris, a nurse, and the senior manager for clinical operations at Affinity Health Plan. A former emergency room nurse, Harris said that in her experience, men display the classic symptoms of chest pain and arm pain. "For a woman it could be vomiting. It could be a headache," she said. The National Institute of Health (NIH) bears her out: "Women are somewhat more likely to have shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, unusual tiredness (sometimes for days), and pain in the back, shoulders, and jaw." But there also can be no symptoms. Almost two-thirds of the women who die of a sudden heart attack have no symptoms before their attack. For men the numbers are higher. Between 70 and 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men. Half of the men who die suddenly showed no earlier symptoms, the CDC reports.

    Keeping your heart healthy is "not rocket science," said Harris. Below are tips to protect your heart.

    • See your doctor for a checkup. If you are overweight ask for dieting advice.
    • Start eating right (more than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese, a NIH study reports.)
    • Exercise (it helps with losing weight, sleeping and lowering stress)
    • Learn to manage stress
    • Get proper sleep
    • Stop smoking (if you don't smoke, don't start)
    • Limit alcohol use
    • Take your medications as your doctor prescribed

    "All of this is basic," said Harris, "but they are the things that go a long, long way."

    Below are links that have more information on heart disease:


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