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Knowing Heart Attack Symptoms Can Save a Life
07/22/2009

CLEBURNE, Texas — About one of every five deaths in the United States was caused by heart attack in 2005, according to the American Heart Association. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States.

Heart attack symptoms vary widely and may differ from person to person. One person may have only minor chest pain while someone else has excruciating pain.

One thing applies to everyone, though: If you suspect you're having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately. Don't waste time trying to diagnose the symptoms yourself or driving to the hospital. Most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. With heart attacks, time is muscle.

“Some people think that a heart attack suddenly happens like in the movies,” said Dr. David Parrish, a physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne. “It may be similar to an anxiety attack so it’s important to recognize the signs and not wait too long to get help.”

The American Heart Association asks people to look for these signs:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sweating. There might be a sudden cold sweat with clammy skin.
  • Anxiety. You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you're having a panic attack for no apparent reason.

Women often experience different heart attack symptoms than men, and are more likely to have symptoms unrelated to chest pain. The Mayo Clinic says to look for these signs:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or heartburn
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue

If you or someone you are with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the signs, call 911 immediately or get to a hospital right away. Getting treatment quickly improves your chance of survival and minimizes damage from a heart attack. Don't "tough out" these symptoms for more than five minutes.

For more information, visit cdc.gov, mayoclinic.com or americanheart.org.

About Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne is a 137-bed acute-care, full-service hospital that has served Cleburne and the Johnson County area since 1986. The hospital’s services include surgery, women’s services, urology, orthopedics and ear, nose and throat care. Texas Health Cleburne, an affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, has been recognized with the 2007 Premier/Carescience Select Practice National Quality Award. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Cleburne.

About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health care delivery systems in the United States and the largest in North Texas in terms of patients served. Texas Health’s system of 14 hospitals includes Texas Health Harris Methodist, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, and Texas Health Presbyterian, and an organization for medical research and education. Texas Health Organization for Physicians and Texas Health Physicians Group provide a variety of models for engagement with physicians. Texas Health Partners is a joint venture development and management company owned by Texas Health Resources. Texas Health MedSynergies is a joint venture that offers physicians a range of office management and other business services to support their practices. Texas Health is a corporate member or partner in six additional hospitals and surgery centers. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org.

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