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FOR RELEASE: February 22, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Recognize and React to the Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains America’s number one killer. This is especially true in Oklahoma where each day 30 Oklahomans die of heart disease, according to officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

“In fact, while a report released last month indicated that nationally, cancer now surpasses cardiovascular disease as the number one killer in the United States for those under age 85, that shift from CVD to cancer did not occur in Oklahoma,” said Misty Worley, OSDH program manager of the Oklahoma Heart Disease and Stroke Health Program. “Oklahoma statistics show that cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death for Oklahomans.”

CVD includes high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, stroke, congenital heart defects, and coronary heart disease (heart attack and angina, or chest pain). Of the cardiovascular diseases, it is coronary heart disease that remains the single largest killer of Oklahomans. The disease continues to devastate both men and women. It accounts for one in five women’s deaths.

Health-related behaviors contribute to the onset of heart disease as well as other related conditions, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes. “We want to encourage Oklahomans to pay more attention to their hearts by recognizing signs and symptoms of a heart attack, which is vital to the survival of an event, and reacting to the signs in a timely manner by calling 9-1-1,” Worley said.

Some heart attacks are sudden, but 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.

Here are warning signs that can mean a heart attack is occurring:

  • 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. This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort, but it can occur before the chest discomfort.
  • Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

The OSDH encourages all Oklahomans, especially women, to improve their heart health. Your heart health can begin by maintaining regular physical activity, improving nutritional intake, and eliminating tobacco use.

For more information, contact your health care provider or local county health department.

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